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British Dental Health Foundation

File:Bdhf logo.jpg
The British Dental Health Foundation official logo

The British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) was formed in 1971 and is one of the World's leading independent oral health charities (registered charity number 263198[1]). It is headquartered in the United Kingdom and aims to help the public improve their oral health and hygiene through a range of activities run under the name of the British Dental Health Foundation name in the UK, and the International Dental Health Foundation globally. The current President of the Foundation and Board Chair is Dr Tony Newton, and the Chief Executive is Dr Nigel Carter OBE.

The beginning

On 9 July 1970, some thirty dentists with others of similar interests met at the Berners hotel in London to discuss the formation of a new dental health organisation with soon-to-be Chairman Jack Manning being elected to set up a formation committee. The meeting had been the brainchild of a number of enthusiasts from the British Dental Trade Association led by John Davis and Peter de Trey. The formation committee worked in close association with the British Dental Association (BDA) over the next ten months and the to create the BDHF and a meeting was held at the Royal Society of Medicine on Friday 21 May 1971 with over sixty people attending.

Over the next eighteen months an enormous amount of activity was undertaken by the members of the formation committee to establish funding, formulate the Articles and Memorandum of Association and apply to the Charity commissioners for registration as a charity. The Foundation was to be unique amongst dental bodies in that membership would be open to not only the profession, but also ancillaries and corporate members from the dental trade.

On 26 October 1971, the first meeting of initial subscribers was held at the Royal Society of Medicine. Jack Manning was elected the first Chairman of Council, John Davis the honorary secretary and Martin Seymour the Treasurer. Mr Douglas Lewis was to be appointed as the first consultant director. The Association for the Preservation of Dental Health Ltd, trading as the British Dental Health Foundation was born. Its main aim had been defined as 'To preserve the dental health of the community in all its aspects and in particular to educate the community in the benefits of achieving and maintaining the highest standards of dental health'.

The reason for the British Dental Health Foundation

In 1970 the concepts of preventive dentistry and the benefits which could accrue from it were very new and being practised by only a small proportion of the dental profession. The founding fathers of the Foundation wished to see the preventive message that 'Teeth are for Life' spread as widely as possible to the public with the aim of improving the overall health of the nation's teeth. The message that modern dentistry had much to offer and was no longer a thing to be feared should also be promoted.

At the time, this type of public activity, which would rely on funding from the dental trade as well as the profession and involve the whole dental team, was not considered by the BDA to be appropriate to its role as the dentist's professional association, trade union and negotiating body. Indeed it was not until some eighteen years later, after one or two previous abortive forays into the world of public relations that the BDA set up its press office with ex-BDHF Executive Director Lynn Stroud at the helm.

The early years

The first Foundation publication entitled 'The Mouth Who Cares?' was produced during its first year of operation and was the forerunner of the wealth of dental health education material to be produced in the coming years. The first product was a tooth cleaning timer sold for 25p.

Brian Rix, Fenella Fielding and Deborah Grant attended the formal press launch of the Foundation at the Savoy Hotel in June 1971. The Foundation saw itself from an early date as the Public Relations Section of all the other dental organisations.

By 1973 Elizabeth Elliott had taken over as administrative secretary, later Executive Manager and finally Executive Director a role in which she was to continue until 1982.

With considerable advances in the media and broadcasting sectors, 1974 saw the Foundation's spokesmen appear on Woman's Hour, Today and You and Yours, as well as many local radio appearances. This in turn led to the beginnings of the Foundation consumer advice service with both telephone calls and letters from the public being dealt with. The Preventive Dentistry Manual was produced in this year and distributed to all members and every dentist throughout the country.

The first two branches of the Foundation were established in the north and Midlands in 1975 and overall membership was slowly increasing. This year also saw the publication of the Home Mouth Care Manual sponsored by Beechams and distributed to 6,000 health visitors throughout the country. The Foundation staff answered over 2,000 letters from the public.

The Design Centre was the site of a Dental Health Exhibition opened by Lord Mountbatten and visited by 35,000 people over 5 weeks in 1976. The exhibition showed the best of British dental technology as well as featuring preventive dentistry. Scottish and Western branches were also established in this year. The Kings Fund was host to a 10 week exhibition 'The Path to Dental Health'.

Information Gum Disease and Information Crowns were the first of a proposed series of information leaflets for dentists to give to their patients.

1978 saw the move of the Foundation from Cavendish Square to larger premises adjacent to Tom Harman-Smith's practice in Finchley. A highlight of the year was the recruitment of 112 new members at the BDTA exhibition at Alexandra Palace, the total membership stood at 629.

1978 also saw the publication of the first BDHF appointment book, a publication which continues to the present day. The North Western Branch was also established in this year while Collin Hall Dexter became the third Chairman of the Foundation.

The 1980s

Graham Barnby became the fourth Chairman of the Foundation in 1980 and 1981 saw further changes with the retirement of Elizabeth Elliott as Executive Director and the appointment of John Stroud to be her successor.

1982 saw the move of the Foundation out of London to new offices in Stony Stratford near Milton Keynes and the election of Terry Morrison as fifth Chairman of the Foundation. With two changes of office accommodation the Foundation was to remain in the Milton Keynes area for the next seven years.

The early '80s were a period of consolidation for the Foundation which now had a membership around 1100, a figure which does not vary much until the present day.

The Foundation became a family affair when Lynn Stroud took over from her husband John as Executive Director of the Foundation in 1984. It also saw the launch of 'Operation Checkup' designed to encourage attendance at the dentist for a (then) free checkup.

Chairman of the northern branch Gerry Dobbs, a general dental practitioner, long term member and avid supporter of the Foundation became Chairman in 1984 and presided over a period of high-profile PR activity. This included the distribution of a 'Smile File' containing information on many aspects of dental treatments to 1,000 journalists.

A thirty second feature on the phobic patient by London Weekend TV in 1985 produced the second largest number of calls to the LWT helpline that any such community broadcast had ever received with thirteen lines in action throughout the weekend. PR activity in the year resulted in material on dental health being seen or read by some 18 million people.

John Tiernan became Chairman of the Foundation at an important time of change in 1986. Sponsorship from the BDTA and Dental Laboratories Association brought the Foundation its first full colour dental health brochure 'Your Guide to a Better Smile' which continues to be a bestseller today. Co-operation with the orthodontic societies resulted later in the year in a second popular colour brochure on orthodontic treatment.

Present-day Chief Executive, Dr Nigel Carter took over the chair in 1988, for a two-year stint while Eric Ingham came in as Chief Executive twenty six years of dental experience, a role which he would keep for further 10 years.

1989 saw over three hundred practices signing up for the 'Open House' campaign which has continued in succeeding Smile Weeks with great success. March 1989 also saw the Foundation outgrowing its premises in Milton Keynes and moving to its present site in an old converted School building in Rugby, Warwickshire.

The 1990s

1990 saw a landmark for the Foundation with the appointment of its first non dentist as Chairman in the person of founding father John Davis who had remained a staunch supporter of the Foundation throughout its twenty-year history. The year also saw the controversial new contract for NHS dental practitioners and the BDHF was commissioned by the Department of Health to produce a leaflet detailing the changes which was distributed to some four and a half million homes.

The BDHF policy of recycling Chairmen continued with a second three-year stint by Colin Hall-Dexter who was to preside over the most significant changes the Foundation had seen in its twenty-year history.

The first BDHF dental awards were held in 1991 and this event then became a regular and valued feature of the dental calendar.

Under the Chairmanship of Stephen Selwyn the Foundation undertook an extensive research project to determine the viability of drop in dental help centres and a national dental helpline. Unfortunately the help centres proved not to be viable but in 1997 the 'Word of Mouth' dental helpline was launched and answered more than 6000 calls in its first year of operation.

The year also saw Chief Executive Eric Ingham step down and be replaced by the first hygienist and first female Chairman, Sally Goss.


The Foundation has two annual awareness campaigns that act as extensions of their work in providing oral health information to the public. In the United Kingdom National Smile Month has been running since 1976 and is one of the largest dental health education events in Europe and the world.[2] It is supported via sponsorship by some of the world's leading brand names, who, together with a range of other partners including the media, Government departments, PCTs and individual dental practices. The Foundation also organises and co-ordinates Mouth Cancer Action Month annually during November.[3]

Current work carried out by the International arm includes:

  - Approving dental products on every continent to make the Foundation the biggest dental accreditation body in the world
  - Working in the Middle East to translate patient information leaflets into Arabic for distribution throughout the Arabian peninsula
  - Translating the Foundation's Tell Me About information into nine of the world's most widely-spoken languages


File:Accreditation BDHF.jpg
BDHF accreditation mark of approval.

Many approaches had been made to the Foundation over the years by companies wishing to accredit oral hygiene products. One of these included a talk at the 1975 AGM by Dr William Brown from Iowa on - 'Endorsement of Dental Products - Yes or No?'.

In 1991 the time was considered right to launch an Accreditation scheme but few could have predicted just how it would transform the financial health and future of the Foundation. In the first eight months of the scheme alone some 37 products were accredited and steady growth in the succeeding years have led to some 280 product submissions and 150 products on shelf with live accreditation.

The result of this accreditation activity was financial security for the Foundation which led to the ability to make longer term plans for major activity to promote its charitable aims.

Today, the Foundation is responsible for the largest dental product accreditation scheme in the world, covering 150 products in over 50 countries. It is a "Claims-based" scheme and approved products are awarded the British or International version of the Smiley-face logo which is displayed on packaging to help inform and advise the public.

An independent panel of internationally recognised dental experts study all the manufacturers’ claims carefully to make sure they are true, and backed up by reliable scientific evidence. This is done to ensure that product claims are clinically proven and not exaggerated.

Dental Helpline

The British Dental Health Foundation has a free and independent Dental Helpline that is staffed by fully trained oral health experts and dental nurses. The Dental Helpline has taken more than 350,000 calls since its formation a little over a decade ago.[4] It is open to the public from Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. The Denplan Helpline is based in Rugby, Warwickshire and can be contacted on 01788 539780 or via the web form provided on the Dental Helpline web page.


The British Dental Health Foundation's website attracts in excess of two million visitors every year.[5]

On February 14, 2011, the Foundation moved from the domain and launched their new website at The site includes new features such as a dental blog written by Chief Executive Dr Nigel Carter and a number of other guest bloggers, a regularly updated dental and oral health news section and a dentistry-based forum gaining the attention to both public and profession.

The most popular feature of the dental health website is the "Tell me about" section.[6] Presented in a user-friendly Question and Answers (Q&A) format, the section contains oral health information and advices about more than 50 different topics.


  1. ^ "British Dental Health Foundation charity reference number and stats". Charity Commission. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "National Smile Month". BDHF. January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Mouth Cancer Action Month". BDHF. August 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "BDHF Anuual report". BDHF. January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "British Dental Health Foundation". BDHF. September 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "Tell me about". BDHF. February 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 

External links