Safe Smiles: new campaign set to champion the benefits of safe dentistry

The British Orthodontic Society and The Oral Health Foundation are launching a new campaign to help patients make safer choices when it comes to their dental treatment

The public awareness campaign, named Safe Smiles, will highlight the benefits of safe dentistry and treatment when carried out in dental practices by trained and registered professionals.

Safe Smiles is a dental sector response to concerns about the growth of direct-to-consumer alternatives, with the campaign’s two organisers worried about patients performing treatments at home – potentially putting themselves in danger.

The campaign was announced at this year’s British Orthodontic Society’s annual conference (16 September) in Manchester, in a joint press conference between the Oral Health Foundation and the British Orthodontic Society.

Recent research by the Oral Health Foundation reveals one-in-four (25%) UK households have opted for some form of DIY dentistry during lockdown.

The nationwide study also shows over half (55%) of adults feel they have neglected their teeth during lockdown. Around one-in-seven (15%) admit to not brushing their teeth as much as before the pandemic.  One-in-five (20%) are eating unhealthier foods, and more than one-in-ten (11%) have been drinking more alcohol. 1

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation is worried the potential decline in oral health status may lead to poor consumer choices, with many favouring shortcuts and attracted by direct-to-consumer alternatives.

Dr Carter says: “We are really concerned by evidence suggesting the UK’s oral health habits have declined during the pandemic. Symptoms associated with dental disease – mainly pain and changes in visual appearance – are leading patients to seek quick and cheap home cosmetic treatments advertised online. This is a great cause for concern and one of the key driving forces behind Safe Smiles.

“Dental treatment of any kind must involve face-to-face contact with a trained clinical professional inside the dental practice. This is to ensure patient safety and the most effective treatment.  It is important that the profession continues to champion safe dentistry and advise patients against direct-to-consumer treatments and alternatives shared on social media.

“When carried out correctly, cosmetic dental treatment can give patients the white, straight and confident smile they have always dreamed about. Safe Smiles will make sure patients are given the very best advice about the safest and most effective way to have dental treatment.”

Further findings from The British Orthodontic Society suggest that adults have become more conscious of their smile during lockdown. Over half of orthodontists (60%) say they have seen a larger than expected demand for treatment during the pandemic. It is suspected those affected could be looking for solutions to treat dental problems and improve the appearance of their smile.  

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Anshu Sood, Director of Clinical Practice at the British Orthodontic Society, says: “We’re delighted to be extending our long-standing campaign with the Oral Health Foundation. It’s heartening to see overwhelming endorsement from the dental sector. This couldn’t be more timely. Our recent stats revealed the pandemic has seen a rise in the number of people seeking orthodontic treatment. With this demand comes a growth in online companies offering treatments.

“Embarking on treatment without seeing a suitably trained clinician could result in serious conditions being missed or dangerous treatment carried out. We want to ensure patients have the very best advice about the safest and most effective way to have treatment. We know that, when carried out correctly, orthodontic treatment can have a positive and life-changing impact.”  

Data shows that more than four-in-five (84%) UK adults want to change something about their smile. Over the next year, more than one-in-three (35%) are thinking about having their teeth whitened while around one-in-six (16%) are considering orthodontic treatment. 1

Safe Smiles will be asking all patients considering treatments to visit dental practices in the UK and have treatment carried out by clinicians registered with the GDC.

The campaign will tackle the dangers associated with dental tourism, inappropriately fitting mouthguards bought online, as well as harmful aesthetic changes to the mouth like lip tattoos, oral piercings, tooth jewellery, modifications and grillz.

The new campaign is being supported by Align Technology and has gathered support from across the dental world. The campaign has already received endorsement from the British Dental Industry Association, British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, British Dental Bleaching Society, British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, British Association of Dental Nurses, and British Association of Dental Therapists.

Edmund Proffitt, BDIA Chief Executive, says: “The British Dental Industry Association is delighted to be supporting Safe Smiles. With ever growing interest in cosmetic dental work, the dental industry feels that it is very important that patients can achieve a healthy smile in a safe environment. Be it orthodontic work, tooth whitening or any other aesthetic dental treatment, working with trained dental professionals within a dental practice is a great way to get safe and effective treatment.

“With some unsafe and unregulated online and ‘do-it-yourself’ treatments available, and unfortunately, a number of unregulated practitioners offering treatments, we thoroughly recommend that patients engage directly with dental professionals to get the best, safest healthy smile.”

Jacqui Elsden, BADN President: “We’re thrilled to be supporting safe smiles. With the rise in popularity of unsafe do it yourself treatments and unregulated providers, we hope that this campaign will help patients become more aware of these dangers and think twice before they purchase them. We recommend that patients engage in this initiative and take steps to safely pursue treatment options.”

Zaki Kanaan, Chairman of the British Dental Bleaching Society: “There is no doubt that one of the most common cosmetic dental procedures that is carried out routinely in dental practices is tooth whitening. Done properly, by a dental care professional, tooth whitening is one of the least invasive ways to improve one’s smile. This popularity has led to the growth of direct-to-consumer options that often get around the legality by using non-peroxide based products that not only have little to no efficacy in whitening one’s teeth but many OTC products are in fact harmful to teeth and their surrounding structures. Members of the public seeking OTC products are leaving themselves open to harm with virtually no recourse when things go wrong.  Over many years at The British Dental Bleaching Society we have been striving to highlight to the public this exact issue and we therefore fully support The Safe Smiles Campaign.”

A special toolkit has been created to help dental professionals support the campaign and share the importance of safe dentistry.

The toolkit is available on the campaign website at www.dentalhealth.org/safesmiles.

Reference:

  1. ORAL HEALTH FOUNDATION (2020) ‘National Dental Survey’ Atomik Research. UK. Sample 2,004.

Oral Health Foundation welcomes pre-watershed junk food advertising ban

In response to the government passing regulations on when junk food advertisements are allowed to play on television, the Oral Health Foundation welcomes these new restrictions and acknowledges that it is a step in the right direction, but worries that there is still a lot more work to do.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation says: “Nutrition is a key part of taking care of not just our general health but also our oral health. The amount of sugar we consume has a devastating impact on the nation’s oral health. Cutting down on sugar consumption is the number one way to stop tooth decay, and junk food is often filled with sugar in order to make the taste more appealing.

“Tooth decay remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children.  The NHS carries out almost 900,000 tooth extractions on children under 18 every year and nine-in-ten of these are down to tooth decay. Tooth extractions takes a great physical and emotional toll on children and is often a source of trauma.  All measures we can take to prevent a child having to go through this [tooth extraction] are things we welcome wholeheartedly.
Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation, also welcomes these new regulations, sharing some heart-wrenching personal accounts of having to perform tooth extractions on young children.

Dr Atkins adds: “When you’re holding a parent’s hand because you’ve just had to take all of their child’s teeth out under general anaesthetic and the child’s looking you in the eye saying ‘why have you done this to me’ you will welcome any new rules brought in to help protect children and stop situations like this occurring.

“Performing tooth extractions on a child is risky, especially under general anaesthetic which comes with a lot of risks itself.  That child might not have woken up from anaesthetic. I could have put their life in danger over something which could have easily been managed with proper diet and proper oral healthcare.”

Despite being a move in the right direction, both Dr Carter and Dr Atkins believe the new regulations do not going far enough to protect children.

Dr Carter says: “The proposed ban on junk food television advertising is a great first step, however will still be allowed through audio media, such as podcasts and radio, and there will be no new restrictions for the out-of-home sector, which includes billboards, poster sites, on buses, and in locations such as railway stations and airports. 
“With many young children now also consuming more and more media online through things like Amazon Prime and YouTube, they may still be able to see junk food advertising through these channels.

“Extending these restrictions to cover all media types, especially streaming platforms, is the next natural progression.”

Dr Atkins adds: “Ultimately, the buying decision is still down to caregivers. They largely control what their children consume and while this advertising ban is welcomed, we all need to change our attitudes, and reduce our consumption of sugary foods, to effect change.”

Oral Health Foundation adds award-winning orthodontic cup Babycup to accreditation programme

The Oral Health Foundation is delighted to announce the first open cup specially designed for infants’ and toddlers’ small hands to gain accreditation from its expert panel.

The charity has given its seal of approval to the Babycup product, which helps aid good oral health in infants by encouraging healthy sipping and natural drinking as well as supporting oral development.

Each product that passes through the charity’s panel of experts is awarded an ‘Oral Health Foundation Approved’ status once their claims have been rigorously checked and effectively verified, including a logo and accreditation document.

Prior to their accreditation, Babycup has won multiple awards – including Made for Mums Editor’s Choice, Prima Baby & Pregnancy Best First Cup, Junior Design Awards Best Baby Feeding Product, and Janey Lee Grace WINNER Best Baby Product – and its small size makes it perfect for little hands. The cup holds 50ml of liquid and has a slim drinking edge designed for young mouths.

The cup is perfect for any infant between 0 – 2.5 years as it can be used right from birth whether you’re express feeding, using formula or a combination of the two. It’s much better for oral development than a traditional Sippy cup because it encourages natural sipping instead of prolonged sucking.

Dr Nigel Carter, Oral Health Foundation CEO and dentist for over 40 years welcomes this partnership.

Dr Carter says: “We welcome this new partnership with Babycup and are happy to provide them with accreditation for their cup product. This is the first free drinking cup for tiny hands to be approved by the panel.

“Developing proper drinking habits at an early age is vital for oral development. Primary [milk] teeth are crucial to jaw development, speech development and adult teeth placement.

“Not taking care of primary teeth can lead to adult teeth growing in crooked, chewing difficulties, facial asymmetries and, most importantly, tooth decay.”

Founder of Babycup Sara Keel is delighted by the Oral Health Foundation’s accreditation.

Sara says: “Receiving the seal of approval from the Oral Health Foundation is a great achievement and recognises the importance of our mini open cups in the eyes of oral healthcare experts. It provides a strong message to parents to choose an open cup when introducing fluids during weaning and gives assurance that Babycup First Cups are perfect for this important stage. Good oral health starts early and we’re pleased that this has been highlighted with this accreditation.”

There are lots more products approved by the Oral Health Foundation for babies, toddlers and young children, head to our Appproved Products page to have a look. To find out more about Babycup visit www.babycup.co.uk.

Pandemic leading to healthier smile habits finds new research

Research published by the Oral Health Foundation has found that a number of Brits took the opportunity during the pandemic to build better oral health habits. At a time when NHS dentistry is struggling to deal with the backlog of patients caused by the pandemic this is very welcome news and the Oral Health Foundation is calling on the nation to continue taking steps towards better oral health.

The survey of over 2,000 Brits found that one-in-five (20%) said that during the pandemic they had developed the habit of brushing their teeth for longer1.

This is especially good news as, on average, research shows that adults brushing their teeth for what they believe is two minutes, is as low as 54 seconds.

It is not just better brushing habits that seem to have been picked up either.  One-in-five Brits (18%) are cleaning in between their teeth with floss or interdental brushes while one-in-seven (14%) have committed to using daily mouthwash more often.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, hopes that Brits can take the charity’s National Smile Month campaign as an opportunity to build on these good habits.

Dr Carter says: “It’s great to hear that a number of us have taken the opportunity to improve our oral health during the pandemic by building better oral health habits. Brushing for two minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste is key for good oral health as well as cleaning daily between our teeth with interdental brushes or floss. Doing so ensures your teeth stay clean throughout the day and also helps keep gum disease and tooth decay at bay.

“At a time when dental practices are working hard to reduce the backlog caused by the pandemic, good oral health at home has never been so important. By keeping on top of our oral health we can really give our body a boost and reduce our chances of developing wider health issues such as diabetes, dementia, and heart disease.”

National Smile Month, which runs until 17 June, is all about the importance of good oral health and is supported by a host of major UK brands such as Invisalign, LISTERINE®, Oral-B, Corsodyl, Sensodyne, TePe, Philips and the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme.

In addition to brushing habits, findings from the charity’s research shows over a third (38%) of Brits are now walking more often during the pandemic while the same number are also cooking more meals from scratch.  These new insights reveal that women are more likely to use lockdown as a chance to take up healthier habits, compared to men2.

Clearly, the pandemic has got a lot of people thinking about their health and the importance of looking after our bodies. Oral health can sometimes be forgotten or taken for granted however Dr Carter hopes that this can change.

“Oral health is so important, but it can be easy to let it slip,” adds Dr Carter.

“Whether it’s forgetting to brush our teeth twice a day or not checking in with the dentist, these bad habits can easily stack up and cause a number of oral health issues. National Smile Month offers an opportunity to put the mouth back into the body and get the whole family enthused about better oral health through fun and engaging activities and events.

“Please take National Smile Month as an opportunity to assess your oral health and take steps towards a healthier and happier smile.”

For more information about our National Smile Month campaign and how you can achieve better oral health head to www.smilemonth.org. Alternatively, if you would like to receive oral health information and advice over the phone then call our Dental Helpline on 01788 539780.

REFERENCES

    1. Oral Health Foundation, ‘National Smile Month Survey 2021‘, UK, Broadcast Revolution, April 2021, Sample 2,009.
    2.  In the survey 41% of women said they were going for walks more often during the pandemic compared to 35% of men. Similarly, 41% of women said they were cooking more meals from scratch compared to 34% of men.

New report highlights concerns into Britain’s brushing habits

One-in-four (26%) British adults regularly brush their teeth only once a day, according to findings of a new nationwide poll.

The data has been collected by the Oral Health Foundation and sheds concerns about the number of people willing to skip twice-daily brushing.

The charity is especially worried by the number of people who regularly fail to brush their teeth last thing at night, when the health of the mouth is most likely to deteriorate.  Insights from the research show that one-in-four (25%) do not brush their teeth in the evening before they go to bed.

Latest figures show two-in-three (66%) UK adults have visible plaque, almost one-in-three (31%) have signs of tooth decay, and three-in-four (74%) have had teeth extracted.

The examination into Britain’s brushing habits is part of National Smile Month, a campaign by the Oral Health Foundation that aims to raise awareness about the importance of a healthy mouth.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the charity, highlights the importance of twice daily brushing and believes now is the perfect time for the UK to reassess its oral health habits.

Dr Carter says: “Twice-daily toothbrushing is the cornerstone to having good oral health because it removes plaque.  If plaque is not removed and is allowed to build up, it can cause conditions like tooth decay and gum disease.

“Brushing only once a day can increase the chances of developing tooth decay by up to a third, so setting aside time for the second brush is really important.” 

Elaine Tilling, dental hygienist and the clinical education manager for TePe Oral Hygiene Products, says: “Apart from stale bedtime breath, failing to brush before bed will also lead to poorer oral health.

“During sleep we lose the function of saliva, the mouth’s protection against tooth decay.  The night-time brush removes the daily build-up of plaque and food debris from the surface of the teeth and gums and helps to ensure that whilst the mouth is at rest, the damage potential from plaque bacteria is removed.”

Further findings from the charity’s research show that toothbrush skipping is more common in adults under 35s (31%), while men are less likely to brush their teeth twice-daily compared to women.

It also suggests that as many as one million UK adults fail to brush their teeth once a day.

The investigation also revealed that most of the population (70%) brush at least twice a day, however, one-in-ten (10%) have no set routine.

“Habits need routine to help them form and toothbrushing is no different,” adds Mrs Tilling, who believes creating a fixed routine it essential for forming healthy habits.

She says: “Brushing before bed is arguably the most important time to remove plaque and night-time is generally when we have the most time for ourselves.  Ensuring brushing and interdental cleaning before bed is crucial for good oral health.”

National Smile Month takes place until 17 June and champions the benefits of a healthy smile.  The initiative is being supported by some of the UK’s most well-known household brands, including Invisalign, LISTERINE®, Oral-B, Corsodyl, Sensodyne, TePe, Philips and the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme.

Throughout National Smile Month, the Oral Health Foundation and its partners are looking to support the nation in taking steps to improve their oral health.

“A healthy smile can be achieved at home with a simple and easy daily routine,” Dr Carter says.

“The most important action you can take is to brush your teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste.  It also means cleaning between your teeth every day with interdental brushes or floss and also cutting down how much and how often you have sugary foods and drinks.

“Dental disease is largely preventable. Following these steps will set you up on the path for a lifetime of good oral health.”

For more information about our National Smile Month campaign and how you can achieve better oral health head to www.smilemonth.org. Alternatively, if you would like to receive oral health information and advice over the phone then call our Dental Helpline on 01788 539780.

REFERENCES

  1. Oral Health Foundation, ‘National Smile Month Survey 2021‘, UK, Broadcast Revolution, April 2021, Sample 2,009.

Charity calls for funding boost to dentistry as it tops list of most delayed health services

New research collected by the Oral Health Foundation has found further evidence of an NHS dental service in crisis. The oral health charity is now calling on ministers to promptly address the issue of backed up dental appointments and provide the support NHS dentistry needs to get back on track.

A survey of over 2,000 British adults has found that almost half (45%) reported delays to their dental appointments or treatments in the last 12 months. This is more than any other health service including GP surgeries (30%), hospital services (16%) and mental health support (11%).

Latest figures suggest that as many as 20 million dental appointments have been delayed or cancelled since March 2020.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes that vital funding and support is needed for NHS dentistry to avoid the nation sleepwalking into an oral health crisis.

Dr Carter says: “Dentistry has been severely underfunded for many years and services have suffered greatly during the pandemic.  To address the backlog caused by COVID-19 restrictions, and to ensure dentistry does not fall behind other crucial health services, now is the time for government to provide more funding and invest in the nation’s oral health.

“Regular dental visits are key for maintaining good oral health. Dentists can spot oral health problems in the early stages and provide patients with advice and care that can save them from both invasive and expensive treatments later down the line.

“Dentists also conduct potentially life saving mouth cancer checks as part of every routine appointment. Many people are unaware when it comes to mouth cancer symptoms and how to look for it and therefore the only mouth cancer check they’d get is when they have their regular appointment.”

As a result of delays to dentistry over the last year, one-in-ten (12%) people have accessed remote dentistry services in the last 12 months.  This includes telephone advice, video calls and emails with their dental team.

Despite the ease of remote advice services, three-in-four (74%) say they prefer physical appointments with their dental team.  This was much higher than for general health, where just over half (59%) said that they would prefer physical appointments.

Despite a reduction in services over the last year, the charity is keen to get more Brits back into the dental chair.  Dr Carter wants to emphasise that while dental practices have suffered several challenges during the pandemic, they have adapted well and ready see more patients.

Dr Carter adds: “Dental professionals have done an excellent job adapting during the pandemic in spite of very difficult challenges.  The good news is that many dentists, dental hygienists and therapists, are now able to see fare more patients than they were last summer, and the range of treatments available should be back to normal.

“If you have not seen a dentist since the beginning of the pandemic, I would urge you to give them a call and enquire about an appointment.  Regular dental visits are crucial for maintain a good standard of oral health and can identify problems long before they become more serious.”

The research has been commissioned by the Oral Health Foundation as part of National Smile Month – a charity campaign championing the benefits of good oral health and a healthy smile.

The initiative is being supported by a wealth of some of the UK’s most well-known household brands, including Invisalign, LISTERINE®, Oral-B, Corsodyl, Sensodyne, TePe, Philips and the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme.

Throughout National Smile Month, the Oral Health Foundation and its partners are looking to support the nation in taking steps to improve their oral health. The charity is highlighting that while dental visits remain essential for a healthy mouth, the cornerstone to good oral health remains at home.

“A healthy smile can be achieved at home with a simple and easy daily routine,” Dr Carter says.

“The most important action you can take is to brush your teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste.  It also means cleaning between your teeth every day with interdental brushes or floss and also cutting down how much and how often you have sugary foods and drinks.

“Dental disease is largely preventable. Following these steps will set you up on the path for a lifetime of good oral health.”

For more information about our National Smile Month campaign and how you can achieve better oral health head to www.smilemonth.org. Alternatively, if you would like to receive oral health information and advice over the phone then call our Dental Helpline on 01788 539780.

REFERENCES

  1. Oral Health Foundation, ‘National Smile Month Survey 2021‘, UK, Broadcast Revolution, April 2021, Sample 2,009.

New data underscores need for greater awareness of dental caries amongst patients

New data published by the Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive has discovered a concerning lack of knowledge of dental caries. The Oral Health Foundation is now calling on dental professionals to help raise awareness of dental caries amongst patients in order to improve the oral health of the nation.

Dental caries is one of the most chronic diseases in the world and is estimated to affect around 2.3 billion people globally1. In the UK, it is estimated that just under one-in-three adults suffer from caries2 – a problem which the charity believe has been exacerbated during the pandemic.

Despite its prevalence, many remain unaware of the circumstances that could lead them being at higher risk or understand how they can prevent the disease from occurring.

As part of a new nationwide omnibus survey into dental caries and fluoride, one-in-three (33%) were unable to identify ‘brushing teeth’ as an action that could prevent the disease.

Furthermore, over half of respondents (54%) did not associate ‘regular dental appointments’ to lower caries risk while and more than one-in-four (26%) did not know that ‘high carbohydrate’ diets can be responsible for higher caries risk3.

There was also a lack of awareness around the other major risk factors of caries, including older age, drying mouth, and having a history of oral health restorations.

Dr Emanuele Cotroneo, Scientific Affairs Project Manager at Colgate, is concerned that without a good basic understanding of the risk factors of tooth decay many Brits will struggle to take control of their oral health.

Dr Cotroneo says: “What this new survey data shows is a clear need for education amongst patients. Patients could be missing out on simple but really effective ways to minimise their risk of developing dental caries but are simply unaware of how their lifestyle choices are impacting their oral health.”

The survey’s findings are part of the charity’s The Truth About Tooth Decay – an online hub, created in partnership with Colgate-Palmolive. The platform hosts educational material for patients around dental caries. The site also includes a dedicated area for dental professionals with tips and tools for educating patients about the symptoms and risk factors of dental caries.

The investigation also showed that it is younger people aged 18-to-24 that have the weakest knowledge when it comes to dental caries.

Almost one-in-four (24%) 18-24-year-olds failed to highlight ‘brushing your teeth’ as an effective way to prevent caries. This is six times lower than those 55-years-old and over (4%).

Similarly, younger adults were far less likely to know that fluoride prevent caries. Less than one-infour (23%) of 18-24-year-olds think that fluoride can be used as an effective way to prevent dental caries – significantly less than those aged over 55.

While young people seem to be least knowledgeable when it comes to dental caries, they are also the keenest to receive oral health information in between appointments.

Nearly two-in-three (63%) younger adults would like to receive oral health information in between appointments with ‘email’ being the preferred method of receiving the information (65%)3.

Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation believes the results of this survey have highlighted a knowledge gap that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Dr Atkins says: “Certainly when it comes to caries, it is clear from this research that more work needs to be done to educate younger adults, both regarding prevention and what is likely to put them at higher risk. Despite this, it is encouraging that most young people are keen to learn more about this area of their health and wellbeing. It presents dental professionals with a tremendous opportunity to engage with this audience, who we know are more likely to skip brushing and regular dental visits.

“Dental professionals are a in a great position to help patients of all ages better understand their oral health. This education can not only be done in the dental chair, it can also be done digitally on social media and through e-communications. The latter has become increasingly important given the restrictions from the pandemic. Digital learning is likely to play a key role in delivering the prevention aspects of the new dental contract.”

For more information, and to check out The Truth About Tooth Decay online hub, head to www.dentalhealth.org/thetruthabouttoothdecay

REFERENCES

  1. World Health Organisation, Sugar and dental caries (2017), available online at https://www.who.int/oral_health/publications/sugars-dental-caries-keyfacts/en/#:%7E:text=It%20is%20also%20the%20most,by%20avoiding%20dietary%20free%20sugars
  2. NHS Digital, Adult Dental Health Survey (2009), available online at https://files.digital.nhs.uk/publicationimport/pub01xxx/pub01086/adul-dent-heal-surv-summ-them-the2-2009-rep4.pdf
  3. Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive (2021) ‘Dental Caries Awareness Survey’, UK, Broadcast Revolution, Sample 2,008.

New survey explores how the pandemic has affected our smiles

New survey data collected by the Oral Health Foundation and Align Technology has found the profound impact of the pandemic on the way UK adults view their smiles.

More than half (58%) of British adults surveyed responded that they have changed the way they see their smile as a result of online video calls, with a third (33%) now more aware of the colour of their teeth and nearly a quarter (24%) more conscious about the alignment of their teeth.

The new research, released as part of National Smile Month, shows that one-in-ten (11%) UK adults feels self-conscious seeing their smile during an online meeting or video call.

Dr. Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes the growth and increased use of digital technologies has led to an increased exposure of the smile. “Physical interactions have been limited over the last 12 months, and for many, have been replaced with gatherings online. This technology has been an invaluable tool, whether it be facilitating business meetings or allowing grandparents to see their new-born grandchildren for the first time. It has also led to us seeing our own face, and smile, far more than we are used to.”

The smile is one of the most important assets we have and is how we communicate our thoughts, emotions and feelings towards one another. Because of its prominence, and importance, the smile can also be a great source of concern for some people.

“The colour and shape of our teeth are the first things we tend to notice and feeling self-conscious is quite normal.  What we must remember, however, is that the most important part of the smile, is its health” – added Dr. Carter.

A healthy mouth can be achieved through an effective oral health routine at home as well as regular dental visits. The key components of an effective oral health routine are brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, cleaning in between the teeth daily with interdental brushes or floss and cutting down on how much and how often you have sugary foods and drinks.

Maintaining a healthy smile is at the heart of National Smile Month – a charity campaign by the Oral Health Foundation. Taking place between 17 May and 17 June, National Smile Month is an opportunity for everybody to gain more confidence about their smile by learning the basics behind having good oral health.

The Oral Health Foundation and Align Technology survey also revealed how the pandemic has affected development of new social connections.

Nearly two-in-three (58%) UK adults surveyed say smiling is important in developing friendships and relationships and believe covering the smile with face mask during the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on forming connections.

As many as 62% of female respondents confirmed that they have been struggling to form connections with others following the introduction of face masks.

Dan Parsons, marketing director UKI, Align Technology, believes that National Smile Month provides many people with a chance to reflect on their smile and take practical steps towards a healthier and happier future. “As the UKI starts to gradually ease restrictions and come out of the pandemic, many of us are finding more reasons to smile again. We are proud to partner with National Smile Month, supporting the efforts of consumers for a healthy, beautiful smile. Most people don’t realise that straighter teeth is not just about good aesthetics; they also contribute to better overall hygiene, gum health, potentially less tooth wear and overall longer and sustained tooth health.

“Our research data shows that many respondents are still hiding their smiles. If that includes you, then please take National Smile Month as your chance to change that.  By taking practical steps to better oral health – including proper cleaning and flossing, regular dental check-ups – or teeth straightening, if your teeth are crooked, you can enjoy the positive and connection-forming benefits that come with a healthy and happy smile.”

For more information about National Smile Month, including how to get involved in this year’s campaign, head to www.smilemonth.org. If anyone requires dental advice or information they can also call our Dental Helpline on 01788 539780*. The confidential Helpline is manned by oral health professionals and is open between 9am – 5pm from Monday to Friday.

*Calls are charged at your standard network rate

REFERENCES

  1. Oral Health Foundation, ‘National Smile Month Survey 2021‘, UK, Broadcast Revolution, April 2021, Sample 2,009.

Oral health charity welcomes GDC statement on DIY orthodontics

The Oral Health Foundation welcomes the General Dental Council’s (GDC) fresh statement on direct-to-consumer orthodontics, also called DIY orthodontics. The charity believes that this announcement solidifies the critical role a trained dental professional plays in orthodontic treatment and underscores the importance of a physical face-to-face examination.

In recent years there has been an increasing demand for orthodontic treatment and specifically clear aligner treatments. Unfortunately, along with this rise we’ve also seen people increasingly look for ways to cut corners when it comes to orthodontic treatment in order to cut the price. This has led to the rise of direct-to-consumer orthodontics, also referred to as DIY orthodontics. These treatments are carried out remotely, with patients often not seeing a dental professional in person at any stage. The patient may also be asked to take on responsibility for certain steps in the treatment plan such as taking impressions of their teeth as well as photographs.

In response to this rise the GDC has now clarified that “clinical judgements about the suitability of a proposed course of orthodontic treatment must be based on a full assessment of the patient’s oral health. At present, there is no effective substitute for a physical, clinical examination as the foundation for that assessment”.

The GDC’s statement also went on to confirm that direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatments using clear aligners fall within the legal definition of dentistry meaning they can only be legally performed by a trained dental professional registered with the GDC.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, hopes this clear stance from the GDC will send a warning sign to anyone thinking of trying DIY orthodontics.

Dr Carter says: “When it comes to orthodontic treatment the input of a trained dental professional is key if both the patients’ expectations are to be met and also to ensure safety. Innovation in orthodontic treatments is always welcome however it must not come at the expense of patient safety or effectiveness. What this statement from the GDC emphasises is the role professional orthodontists play in providing safe and effective treatment. It also underscores the need for a physical examination in order to be able to effectively assess a patient.”

The Oral Health Foundation has long been aware of the need for patients to be able to make informed and safe decisions when it comes to orthodontic treatment. That is why the charity set up SafeBrace in partnership with the British Orthodontic Society. The campaign aims to offer the public independent and impartial information and advice about all things orthodontics. This includes the processes involved and how to get orthodontic treatment in a safe and effective manner.

The British Orthodontic Society also agree that this statement from the GDC around DIY orthodontics is a step in the right direction.

Director of External Relations, Anjli Patel says: “The GDC’s announcement is about the most fundamental element of healthcare – patient safety. We are delighted that our concerns have been heard by the GDC and acted upon. However, as the voice of orthodontics in the UK, we still have reservations about how any wrongdoing by DIY orthodontic companies could be picked up by authorities and we don’t want patients falling through regulatory cracks. Patients don’t know what they don’t know – we will endeavour to give them all the facts.”

For more information about orthodontics and the SafeBrace campaign head to www.safebrace.org. Alternatively, if anyone would like oral health advice they can call our Dental Helpline by calling 01788 539780*. The confidential Helpline is open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

*Calls are charged at your standard network rate

New dental survey of children highlights stark inequalities in England

A dental survey of three-year-olds in England has revealed stark oral health inequalities within England. The Oral Health Foundation, a leading oral health charity, believe community water fluoridation holds the key to bridging the gap and are calling on the government to act.

The report investigated nearly 20,000 three-year-olds from across England and found more than one-in-ten (10.7%) already have tooth decay.  On average, each child had three decayed teeth.

The survey also highlights regional differences amongst young children. Three-year-olds living in the Yorkshire and Humber are more than twice as likely to experience tooth decay (14.7%) than children living in the East of England (6.7%).

Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation, believes these statistics highlight an urgent need to address the oral health of children in this country and would like the government to do more.

Dr Atkins says: “These statistics are worrying indeed, especially when looking at the stark regional differences. The last survey of this nature was carried out in 2013 and since then very little progress has been made. This stagnation is due to a lack of action and clear direction from government, both at a local and national level, when it comes to addressing oral health inequalities in the UK.

“As a charity, we believe that community water fluoridation holds the key to improving the oral health of children up and down the country. Under new NHS reform plans announced earlier this year, the government pledged to take back control of community water fluoridation in order to make the process of implementing schemes both more efficient and less costly.

“We need to hold the government accountable for this and hope that in years to come we will see more and more community water fluoridation schemes.”

Fluoride has been researched extensively for decades now and has been found time and time again to be very effective in protecting teeth from decay and erosion. When added into the water supply studies have shown it can reduce tooth decay by up to 35%.

The charity believes water fluoridation would be especially effective for those living in more deprived areas where access to dental care may be limited.

The report also revealed that children living in the most deprived areas of the country were almost three times as likely to have experience of tooth decay (16.6%) as those living in the least deprived areas (5.9%).

Dr Ben Atkins concludes that, whilst we wait to see improvements made, everyone can take steps to better their oral health by following a strong oral health routine at home.

Dr Atkins says: “There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to addressing oral health inequalities in this country. However, while we strive towards that goal, we would encourage everyone, including children,  to brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day.  This, along with cleaning in between your teeth daily, can set you and your children up with a healthy smile for life.”

For more information on the importance of good oral health, as well as the benefits of fluoride, visit the Oral Health Foundation’s website at www.dentalhealth.org.  Furthermore, if anyone requires dental advice then they can contact our Dental Helpline on 01788 539780. The Helpline is staffed by trained dental professionals and is open from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. Calls are charged at your standard network rate.