Smiling – Does Prevention Matter?

The SMILING project received a Special Mention from the Sustainable Health Award in 2018, in Portugal.

Eurochild member Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso Foundation (NSBSFoundation) which promotes health and child development for all since 1951, is behind this award-winning project.

The Foundation promotes a healthy child development through:

  1. health education and empowerment that leads to the adoption of healthier lifestyles;
  2. early diagnostics through regular screenings to detect abnormalities;
  3. timely treatment of the abnormalities detected;

It takes into account and acts upon various health determinants - physical and biological; ecological; lifestyles; access to services; social and economic - of each beneficiary.

Health, along with education, is the most important factor to break intergenerational poverty cycles. Vulnerable children have a heavy burden of social and economic determinants of health and a very limited access to quality healthcare. That’s why the Foundation’s universal access is of such importance for those children, giving them the high-quality healthcare they need.

The oral health programme is one of the Foundation’s child health monitoring programmes, with universal access. It is performed by oral hygienists (for the screenings) and dentists (for treatment) and its main goal is the prevention of tooth decay and other oral diseases.

The Smiling project’s goal is to measure the outcomes of our oral health programme in children aged 10 – 13 years old, using two (inter)national oral health indicators:

  • the decayed, missing and filled teeth index, which measures the lifetime experience of tooth decay, both in primary and in permanent dentition (teeth development);
  • the percentage of children free of tooth decay.

In order to measure these outcomes, among children aged 10 – 13 years old enrolled in the Foundation’s oral health programme, we isolated two groups:

  • Group 1 (N=141) – those who begun oral health screenings at the age of 3
  • Group 2 (N= 47) – those who begun at the age of 10 or after

Some key results:

1. Average decayed, missing and filled teeth index  
    a. In primary dentition, Group 1 scores 0.4 and Group 2 scores 1.0   
    b. In permanent dentition, Group 1 scores 0.8 and Group 2 scores 2.0

2. Children free of tooth decay:  84,4% in Group 1; 51,1% in Group 2

The results show that children who began oral health monitoring at 3 years old have better oral health outcomes than those who began it later.  Given the importance of oral health in general health status (recognised by the World Health Organisation itself), preventative oral healthcare leading to a better oral health contributes also to general good health of a child. And the earlier we start the better are the outcomes!

At NSBS Foundation, we strongly believe that investing in the first years of life is the best way to build a healthier and more sustainable society.

Learn more information about the Smiling project from here.