June 15, 2022
Anthony Krystopher

Oral Health Inequality - National Smile Month 2022

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June 15, 2022

Oral Health Inequality - National Smile Month 2022

Anthony Krystopher

It’s easy to take a smile for granted - to forget how present it is in your day-to-day life. How much we rely on our teeth to eat, or use our mouths to communicate with words and facial expressions.

Your smile is the first thing someone notices when you greet them, and the first thing you see in the mirror when you’re getting ready in the morning.

From laughing and cheering, to your most intimate moments.

Yet it’s also something which is so commonly left to fall into an unhealthy state for millions of people in the UK.

National Smile Month is a month-long charity campaign which aims to raise national awareness of maintaining good oral health through education, motivation and communication.

The focus of National Smile Month 2022 is to highlight inequalities within oral health.

Despite vast improvements in overall dental health and dental health services over the last decade, every year millions of people in the UK are affected by oral health problems. There are still many groups for whom the inequalities have unjustly and unfairly persisted - whether due to location, income or other socio-economic factors - when everyone should have the right to a healthy smile.

Having less access to frontline dental care services can lead to a greater risk of oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease, tooth loss and tooth extractions, as well as psychological problems such as dental phobias, anxiety and depression.

Apart from seriously affecting your quality of life, these problems turn into life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease.

Statistics pulled from the Oral Health Foundation website show that in the UK;

“Almost two in five adults don't go to the dentist regularly.”
“Almost one in three adults have tooth decay.”
“Two in three adults have visible plaque.”
“Around three in four adults have had a tooth extracted.”
“60 million people in the UK do not have fluoridated water.”
“Two million adults in the UK have to travel at least 40 miles to access dental care.”

Concerning statistics such as these are the reason National Smile Month exists. The inequality stems from risk factors which are largely out of our control, leaving millions at an oral health disadvantage.

Some may not even be aware that they are at risk - and a person is unlikely to want to safeguard themselves or take further steps if they’re unaware that there’s a need until it’s too late.

For this reason, this article aims to first shine a light on whether you may be at potential risk of oral inequality due to external factors outside of your control, because it may not be something which has dawned on you if the topic hasn’t been broached before.

Then we’ll discuss what you can do and what we can do, to safeguard your dental health against these risks together.

Links to further reading will be provided at the end of the article.


An article posted by the parliamentary office of science and technology highlights that 10% of the UK currently has a fluoridated water supply, either naturally or artificially.

Unfortunately, Greater Manchester is not one of those locations, which means we are not yet able to benefit from what fluoride has to offer, such as strengthened enamel and improved resistance against tooth decay.

Aside from the water supply, if you live in a remote location and travelling in and out of the area is difficult, or requires different forms of transport, this can be a big deterrent to finding the nearest dental care provider due to practicality and time constraints.

This issue is compounded if the few means of dental care services within reach offer poorly maintained surgeries or negative patient experiences.

What you can do;

  • Use fluoride toothpaste; your dentist will be happy to recommend some good products when you attend an appointment.
  • It’s worthwhile to consider treatments such as fluoride varnish which can offer improved protection from decay for up to 6 months.

What we can do;

  • Smart Dental Care strives to be accessible. Our practices are available across the whole of Greater Manchester, the northeast of England and Northern Ireland, so we’re never too far away should you need us.
  • In addition, we only have passionate, skilled clinicians and the highest quality materials to make sure your experience and treatment are to an impeccable standard.


Research by the Oral Health Foundation found that;

“more than one-in-three (36%) UK adults admit that they are sacrificing dental visits in order to keep their bank balance in check.”


“…Younger adults are most likely to financially struggle with their oral health. Just under two-in-three (59%) 18-24-year-olds freely admit to their financial inability to look after their mouth, teeth and gums.”

More deprived areas and low-income households are more susceptible to this factor. Even before the hike in the cost of living, hearing the phrase “private treatment” could be a deterrent to many - even NHS treatments can be an unpleasant hit if the need for treatment raises its head at the wrong time and you require treatments across different bands.

What you can do;

  • A good oral health routine (more on this later) can help keep your teeth healthy and lower the likelihood of needing more expensive treatments such as fillings or tooth extractions.
  • Attending regular dental appointments means dentists can spot problems before they get worse, which could save you money in the long run.
  • If you are under 18, pregnant, or on universal credit, you may qualify for free NHS dental services. Take a look at the full list on the NHS website.
  • By working out roughly how much toothpaste you use per month and how often you need to replace your toothbrush, you may be able to save money by buying these essential items in bulk.

What we can do;

  • Smart Dental Care is a provider of both private and NHS treatments and if the price tag attached to certain private options has dissuaded you in the past, we must remind you we do have affordable 12-month 0% finance options available, so you can spread the cost of treatment.

Don’t hesitate to discuss your options with our team, restorative or cosmetic treatments you’ve always wanted but always dismissed may be within reach.


As touched upon in Valentine's Day article, the food you eat plays a pivotal role in the state of your oral health.

High sugar encourages decay and high acidity foods are harmful to the enamel, not to mention the effects they can have on the rest of your body.

This could be because underprivileged neighbourhoods may have limited access to fresh, nutrient-rich foods, yet low-cost, high-sugar foods may be more accessible or convenient.

What you can do;

  • Transitioning to a healthy diet makes the biggest difference, but sticking to your daily oral hygiene routine, visiting the dentist regularly, diluting sugars and acids by rinsing after eating, drinking plenty of water and keeping a travel mouthwash on hand, are all smaller steps you can take to protect yourself against this risk factor.

What we can do;

  • Our practitioners at Smart Dental Care will be more than happy to give you advice on food and snacks which are kind to your teeth but it’s probably best to pose these questions to your doctor or dietitian if you see one.

Anxiety and Phobia

As discussed in the Phobias article; a dental practice has a broad range of triggers for anxious patients or those with phobias, which can feel like an insurmountable mountain between you and the dental procedure you may desperately need.

What you can do;

  • Doing your homework about the procedure and the benefits it’ll bring, researching and practising coping mechanisms or distraction techniques whilst you’re in the chair, asking about sedation services and seeking therapy for deeper insight into your phobia origins are all potential safeguards from this risk factor.

What we can do;

  • Smart Dental Care practitioners will go to all reasonable efforts to ensure your journey is as stress-free as possible, as long as you communicate how you’re feeling; so please tell us if you need a friend or family member in the room, if you need extra time, a break from the chair or some music to distract or relax you.

Mental Health

If someone already suffers from confidence issues, anxieties, depression or other mental health illnesses, they can be especially prone to oral health inequality.

These kinds of conditions have the potential to negatively impact all aspects of your day and dental health is no exception.

The lack of momentum at the bottom of that psychological bell curve can make the idea of facing a dentist visit too much to handle.

Normal routines can fall by the wayside and diet may alter completely. Bad habits like smoking and binge eating can worsen.

These things and more can contribute to oral health neglect becoming more likely the longer the struggle persists.

What you can do;

  • The above risks are not the case for everyone as mental health is a huge, complex topic, but if any of these things sound familiar, it’s imperative that you seek assistance, whether from friends or family or an expert, not just for your dental health but your overall wellness too.

What we can do;

  • Whilst Smart Dental care can confidently provide you with dental-related guidance and treatment, your mental health and wellbeing are best dealt with by mental health professionals.

  • Links to the UK-based mental health charities Mind and the Mental Health Foundation have been provided at the end of this article for further reading.

Lack of understanding

Limited or no access to dental health-related education worsens existing oral health issues because they allow misunderstanding to proliferate between generations, with dental fears, poor routines and lack of awareness rolling on if the resources aren’t expanded.

Especially prevalent in underprivileged zones, a lack of education or awareness surrounding dental health and the importance of dental visits, as well as the consequences of poor dental health, could be a key reasons for dental health problems being prevalent across communities.

What you can do;

  • Brush teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and one other time during the day, with fluoride toothpaste
  • Cut down on sugary foods and drinks
  • If you’re a smoker, quit
  • Brush your teeth, gum-line and tongue at night and at one other time during the day
  • Clean between your teeth every day
  • Use interdental brushes or floss to clean between your teeth every day
  • Use a mouthwash every day
  • Visit a dentist regularly

What we can do;

The dentists available at Smart Dental Care are happy to provide you with further information during a routine check-up, like professional tips on dental hygiene, flossing and brushing techniques, or dental health products they’d personally recommend.

The articles on the Smart Dental Care website discuss various oral health-related tips for your understanding, and a monthly Besmart email newsletter is sent out to the Smart Dental community to raise further awareness of dental health importance, sharing important oral hygiene messages, hygiene tips and to encourage people to come in for their check-up.

It’s important to us to do what we can to protect your smile from the risks we’ve discussed here - If you’re due your appointment or searching for a particular treatment, book an appointment or call us on 0161 820 3477.

Further reading:

For more information about National Smile Month and how to participate, please visit:


For more information about water fluoridation please visit:


For more information and support regarding your mental health, please visit: