My National Smile Month Lockdown Project by Karenn Helmrichne Davila, BSc (Hons) Dental Therapist & Hygienist, Dental nurse and NHS clinical caseworker

So here I am with plenty of time in my hands to focus on the project I meant to do years ago, but I never found the time for it…

National Smile Month, a campaign run by the Oral HealthehH Foundation charity (a non-profitable organisation) aims to promote and improve oral health and hygiene of the public, through numerous activities.

National Smile Month ran from the 18th May to 18th June and aimed to promote three key oral messages for oral hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth twice per day – first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening with fluoridated toothpaste
  • Cut down on sugary drinks and food and reduce those intakes
  • Visit your dentist as often as recommended

With fresh knowledge on dental health, a lockdown, and my enthusiasm for dentistry, it seemed the perfect opportunity for me to deliver those three key messages across the globe and within my community.

My saying as a Dental therapist and Hygienist is “prevention is protection”. I deeply believe in this phrase because dental diseases are totally preventable.  I know, I cannot change the world, but I can certainly protect the people I know by providing preventive dental advice.

National Smile Month goes Global

I decided to dedicate myself to contact all the people I knew across the globe, aiming to spread the word about National Smile Month, good oral health, and its impact on physical and mental well-being.

By doing surveys amongst the people I knew from various countries I found out more about their current oral hygiene regime and helped them to understand our current UK dental advice.

Do you know that in Mexico and Turkey many are still rinsing after brushing?

From my survey I also found that, in Mexico, 80% of the children under 12 years old do not have dental supervision when brushing their teeth. However, 90% of them are seen by their dentist regularly. I also found that most adults use floss, rather the interdental brushes.

Most Canadians use an electric toothbrush however, most Peruvians use a manual toothbrush.

In Chile, mums are particularly good at looking after their children’s oral hygiene, with the mums I asked reporting 0% cavities in their children.

This particular project was so satisfying and heart filling because, apart from discussing oral health with my friends and family, I also had the opportunity to revive memories and had fun with them.

To close this project, I collected some video clips showing the healthy smiles of some of those who participated, you can check them out on my Instagram page @smileofpearls

National Smile Month supporting our vulnerable people during COVID19

I decided to focus on my community in Plymouth, specifically targeting our elderly population in care homes, because of the risk factors that a vulnerable adult present in relation to gum diseases and their susceptibility of contracting COVID19.

COVID19, AKA as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory diseases) is a virus that causes flu like symptoms with severe complications such as pneumonia, sepsis, septic shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and death.

Here below is a diagram to illustrate the science behind the relation between oral health, systemic conditions, and the increased risks of developing severe illness from COVID19 infection.

In April, some research was carried out by Dr. Sampson, highlighting the direct relationship between poor oral hygiene and severity of COVID19 infection.

In a nutshell, patients infected with COVID19 exhibit a high level of bacterial load, including oral microbiome (P. Gingivalis, F. neucleatum, P. intermedia) and inflammatory markers (iL 1,6,10) 50% of those patients would die from bacteria superinfection. So, how does it work? theoretically, whilst the host is responding to a viral attack, the bacteria gain a freeway to establish and overgrow, leading to a second infection knows as bacterial superinfection. Being this the cause of severe complications during COVID19 infection.

By improving oral hygiene during COVID19 infection, the bacterial load would be reduced along with the risk of bacterial superinfections, and hopefully prevent death.

In light of this evidence, Tamar’s house care home manager requested to have delivered a webinar, rather than face to face approach, so that all carers would be present and hence they would help their residents with their oral hygiene better.

Using a questionnaire feedback form filled by residents, manager, and carers,  I tailored my presentation to fulfil their oral hygiene needs. You can check out the presentation in full here.

Final thoughts

This project has got me thinking about how much can be done for our society using online platforms.  I would highly recommend to you all to consider taking part in the national smile month and do something similar to help our society, not only in care home settings but in schools, corporates you name it.

Oral health is needed everywhere, and you all will have the tools to do it once you graduate!

 Ps: Once I deliver my presentation, I am planning to produce a collage of photographs and a video clip showing the healthy smiles of the participants. To find out more check my Instagram page @smileofpearls.

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