Dodging the dentist lately? Forgotten to floss? Not brushing before bedtime? Chances are you’re one of the many South Africans who steer clear of dentists and oral hygienists.
Because oral disease is preventable, healthcare giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in collaboration with the Department of Health, is hitting the road to show South Africans that they can’t just pay lip service to good oral health. GSK will take its oral healthcare brands – Aquafresh, Biotene, Super Corega, Corsodyl and Sensodyne – to consumers and provide good oral healthcare advice via GSK Mobile Dental Clinics and GSK Mall Screenings.
The overall theme for both the eight month mobile clinic programme that will service poorer communities nationwide and the seven month mall screening programme that will educate urban shoppers across the country is ‘Love Your Mouth’, according to Deirdre Davel, GSK’s trade marketing manager.
“GSK is a global leader in providing innovative consumer brands and services and operates in all major segments of the oral care market – toothpaste, brushes, mouthwashes, chewing gum and denture care products. Our products are backed by solid science. Our mission is to improve quality of life by providing products that enable people to do more, feel better and live longer. We have some important messages for consumers – don’t forget to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes; if you have kids, teach them about oral health the fun way with the Aquafresh kids range of toothpastes and toothbrushes and, if you have sensitive teeth, get relief by using Sensodyne.”
This fully equipped clinic staffed by oral hygienists will not only provide education on oral healthcare but bring dental care to people who have limited access to professional medical services. The mobile clinic will travel across Gauteng, Durban and Cape Town for eight months.
The clinic will operate from Monday to Friday. Initial screenings will ascertain whether a patient needs to be referred to a dentist or can be treated on site by an oral hygienist. Treatments are expected to take approximately 20 minutes. “Each day, we intend treating between 16 and 18 patients. On top of that, we will be able to interact with a further 30 to 50 people in our waiting rooms where we will have educational information to promote healthy dental care,” she said.
The mall screenings will happen simultaneously in Gauteng, Durban and Cape Town between April and October. Stands will be manned by oral hygienists who will screen consumers of all ages, answering oral health related questions and advising on the correct use of the appropriate products. There will be educational material on hand and ambassadors in store to assist consumers in making the correct product choices for their needs at point of purchase. Children of all ages have a special activity area dedicated to them on the stand where they can learn about oral healthcare whilst having fun.
Davel said that GSK had been prompted to take action by consumer research. “Did you know that only 19 percent of South Africans visit the dentist and that 44 percent of those that do only go if they have a problem?”.
She said South Africans needed to brush up on brushing. Research showed that most only brushed their teeth once a day and, when they did, they did not spend enough time actually doing this (two minutes, twice a day is recommended by GSK’s Aquafresh experts2). Most consumers only replaced their toothbrushes when they were completely worn out and rather than when they were no longer effective. In fact, average consumption is just 0.4 brushes per annum!
GSK also advocates that good oral healthcare starts with children’s milk teeth. Even though a child’s teeth may not be permanent, they require as much care as an adult’s. Neglecting them could have lifelong consequences.
During the campaign, parents will be advised on instilling good eating habits and making sure that they don’t put babies to bed with bottles filled with sugary drinks. “Few parents realize that plaque starts forming as soon as there’s a tooth surface on which it can grow - so it’s important to start looking after children’s teeth as soon as the very first one appears,” Davel explained.“Teaching kids from an early age that dental hygiene should be a way of life means they’ll have the benefit of fluoride protection right from the start and make brushing part of their daily routines,” she added.
Davel concluded that the best oral healthcare is preventative and proactive and that by educating South Africans, GSK hopes to prevent people from living with bleeding gums, bad breath, rotten or stained teeth and the very real risk of systemic diseases.