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Lucy Stock is a columnist for the Irish News

School Smiley Lessons Can Last a Lifetime

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 30.04.2014

National Smile Month, the UK’s largest oral health campaign, is back! This year the organisers, the British Dental Health Foundation, are inviting teachers to join in with their colleagues from other schools and take part in National Smile Month which runs between 19th May and 19th June. Year on year with an increasing number of schools participating, more children are taking advantage of the lifelong benefits of good dental health. The World Health Organization says that worldwide, 60–90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities which often lead to pain and discomfort. Oral health is essential to general health and quality of life. It is a state of being free from mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and emotional wellbeing.

Statistics show not enough children give consideration to their oral health, and that’s where National Smile Month comes in. Schools have an important role to play in educating young people about healthy lifestyles, including their oral care. Introducing oral health into the school curriculum, especially in primary school, can make a big difference. Research shows that people who learn good habits as children are far more likely to carry them into adulthood. A dedicated website for helping to improve oral health in schools called Dental Buddy hosts a series of educational resources, including activity sheets, lesson plans and interactive presentations. All of which are freely downloadable from the site, to take into the classroom. Resources are available to educate children on the basic messages all the way up to some of the more detailed ways in which they can improve their oral health.

Pupils can get involved with tooth brushing demonstrations, drawing competitions, a quiz, or even writing their own smiley poems. Smiley masks are available to use in ‘Smileathons’. Pupils can take pictures using them and there are these three key messages on the back of the Smileys too: