London Freemasons have helped improve children’s dental health with the launch of the ‘SMILE’ campaign
In 2017, Alan Hillman a London Freemason and currently Metropolitan Junior Grand Warden was visiting his grandson in hospital and in an adjoining bed he noticed there was a very distressed young girl who was having a needle placed in her arm. She became very calm when she was given a teddy bear, one provided under the ‘Teddies for Loving Care’ initiative. The nurse treating Alan’s grandson mentioned that these bears were provided by Freemasons, to which he replied asking if there was any other need that Freemasons could assist with? She immediately replied ‘toothbrushes!’ Thus was born the toothbrush for children initiative in London.
Alan linked up with Claire Robertson, consultant in dental public health from Public Health England and Professor Nigel Hunt, head of Craniofacial Growth and Development at the Eastman Dental Institute, University College London Hospital who confirmed the need for better dental care and education amongst children and their parents particularly with those from a deprived background.
Working with Public Health England, support from his own Lodge - City Gate No. 9890 and a grant of £4,000 from the London Freemasons Charity, Alan was able to supply 40,000 toothbrushes to children wards and A & E departments across London in 2018. This initiative was repeated in 2019 under a ‘Smile London’ campaign with a further donation by the London Freemasons Charity and a launch event at the Whittington Hospital in north London attended by Professor Hunt and other leading clinicians.
Research from Public Health England shows that there is a major problem in dental health amongst children with between 24-40% of five year olds suffering from tooth decay in London and 24% across England.
Professor Nigel Hunt said: 'Child tooth decay is a major public health issue and effects around a quarter of five year olds across the country.
'Ensuring that children brush their teeth regularly and attend dental check-ups are essential steps in tackling a problem that is 90% preventable.'
Alan Hillman said: 'A chance encounter and conversation in a hospital whilst visiting my grandson has developed into a major initiative in London. From the reception we have had from hospitals across the capital, there is clearly a major demand. Whilst this initiative is continuing in London, I would be happy to assist any Province that wished to develop this campaign in their own area. As you can see from the figures this is a national issue.'