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Our ‘Little Dentists’ can help the world to smile

Sevgin Islekel
Sevgin Islekel

Global Vice-President, Professional Marketing, Oral Care

Sevgin Islekel is the Global Vice-President for Professional Marketing in the Oral Care category. She is a qualified dentist with 20 years of experience in marketing in the pharmaceutical consumer healthcare sector and has been working at Unilever for two years. Sevgin and her team work in partnership with the World Dental Federation (FDI) and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR).

I believe that kids can change the world’s dental habits. As a qualified dentist, I know just how common cavities are – it’s something almost all adults and up to 90% of children will suffer from at some point – but equally how easily much of the pain and health problems caused by tooth decay can be avoided.

We’ve been running our Brush Day & Night campaign in association with national dental associations for the last 25 years where we’ve reached more than 50 million kids in over 20 countries. We’ve now set ourselves the target of reaching 100 million people by 2020 – meaning more healthy smiles and fewer cases of oral diseases simply by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. It really is a fundamental part of a person’s overall general health.

Before, we relied on parents to teach their kids how to look after their teeth, but our research shows that many parents around the world don’t have good oral hygiene habits themselves, either in developing or developed markets. In France, for example, 60% of parents tell their children to brush twice a day but they don’t do it themselves.

So this year Signal is stepping up its campaign with new programmes encouraging kids to become tooth-brushing ambassadors. We want to harness their ingenuity and passion so they become ‘Little Dentists’ in the fight against cavities and tooth decay. We go into schools and teach the kids how to brush their teeth and prevent cavities with help from some super-dentist cartoon characters and they then go and teach these techniques to their parents and brothers and sisters.

As children by their nature are not very motivated to do things on a regular basis and tooth brushing is not the most enjoyable thing for children to do, we have to make it enjoyable and fun. So we use our ‘Brush Brush song’, which is really catchy and fun, and encourages the whole family to brush their teeth together. We also have a 21-day sticker calendar, which reminds kids if they have forgotten to brush their teeth, and has enough stickers for everyone.

We’ve been rolling out this education programme in most of our biggest markets, such as Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Egypt and Turkey as well as most African countries and we find the kids really get involved. During my trips to see tooth-brushing lessons in action, the kids are very motivated, and are always smiling and singing. They are enjoying themselves while learning something good which is for their health. I really believe they can help to improve the health and well-being of people around the world, one smile at a time.

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