BARNSLEY people are being encouraged take care of their oral health to give them a healthy smile and prevent tooth decay and gum disease as part of National Smile Month which is taking place until June 13.

As part of the month-long campaign, health experts across South Yorkshire are supporting the Oral Health Foundation charity in raising awareness of the importance of having a healthy mouth and smile.

Taking good care of our oral health goes far beyond just keeping our teeth and gums healthy. We need a healthy mouth for eating, speaking and socialising, and it also impacts on our general health. Poor oral health is associated with a number of health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, giving birth to a premature or low-birth-weight baby and respiratory disease.

Margaret Naylor, Chair of the South Yorkshire Local Dental Network, said: "National Smile Month emphasises the importance of oral health for the community. From fun activities and educational input during National Smile Month, dentists hope to encourage increased awareness and promotion of good oral health.

“A healthy mouth and a beautiful smile are achievable by all. Advice on brushing teeth, and a good diet combined with a healthy lifestyle will always be given by your dentist.”

Across South Yorkshire, council-supported oral health improvement programmes are aiming to improve oral health and reduce oral health inequalities. These include supervised toothbrushing clubs in early years and school settings, distribution of oral health packs through health visitors, and work with family hubs.

Anthony Fitzgerald, Executive Director lead for Primary Care at NHS South Yorkshire, said: "It is fantastic to see activities taking place across South Yorkshire, as part of National Smile Month, to encourage local people to brush their teeth and look after their oral health.

“Oral health improvement programmes are key in supporting our local communities by delivering key messages and support at different levels and across a range of services delivery care and support to our local people.”

People can help to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and mouth cancer through a few easy to do tips for a healthy mouth:

Brush all surfaces of every tooth and the gumline twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Brush last thing at night and on at least one other occasion. Check the packaging to make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride as this helps to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay.

Spit the toothpaste out after brushing, but don’t rinse with water or mouthwash afterwards or you’ll wash away the protective fluoride.

Tooth decay is caused by sugar, so try and reduce the amount of sugary food and drinks you have and how often you have them. Avoid snacking between meals. Milk and water are the safest drinks for children’s teeth.

Stop smoking or vaping because this can cause gum problems. Tobacco and alcohol also cause mouth cancer, so keep alcohol consumption within recommended limits.

Visit the dentist regularly. Children should see the dentist every year and adults at least once every couple of years. Even if you don’t have any of your own teeth, it is still important to have your mouth checked regularly for signs of mouth cancer. To find a list of NHS dentists near you, visit You may need to ring a few dental practices to arrange an appointment or join a waiting list.

Dr Sarah Robertson, Consultant in Dental Public Health, commented: “Children in South Yorkshire have some of highest levels of tooth decay in the country. By the time they are five years old, 29 per cent of children across South Yorkshire (compared with 24 per cent for England) have tooth decay.

“The most deprived communities in Yorkshire and the Humber have levels of tooth decay which are more than four times higher than those in the least deprived areas. The pain and infection affects sleep, children miss nursery and school and parents have to take time off work to care for them.

“Tooth decay is the most common reason for a 5-9 year old to have to have a hospital admission, and South Yorkshire has the highest levels of hospital tooth extractions nationally. Tooth decay is a huge problem - yet we know it is largely preventable.”

If someone needs to see a dentist urgently, for example, due to severe toothache, infection or swelling in your mouth, they should contact their dentist for an appointment. If they can’t get an appointment or do not have a dentist, please ring NHS111 and they will arrange an urgent appointment if needed.