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A young girl brushing her teeth and smiling

Taking care of oral hygiene

Average read time: 5 minutes

Every smile matters. That’s why our oral care brands – Signal, Pepsodent, Mentadent, Aim, Prodent and P/S – have been on a mission to encourage good brushing habits for over 25 years.

Mother and toddler daughter cleaning their teeth side by side at the bathroom sink

One in two people live with untreated tooth decay

The World Health Organization estimates that oral diseases affect one in two people, threatening healthy smiles all over the globe. We know that poor oral hygiene can lead to long-term health issues and even life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease.

According to a global study we commissioned in 2019, poor oral health can also lower children’s self-esteem and negatively affect their performance at school. In fact, toothache is the number one reason for children missing school in many countries.

A simple solution

The solution is simple: brushing teeth day and night with a fluoride toothpaste. This reduces the occurrence of cavities by 90% compared to not brushing teeth at all.

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3 billion People don’t brush their teeth twice a day

But we know that an estimated 3 billion people do not brush their teeth twice a day. Most use less than half the toothpaste dentists recommend for brushing properly. And 1 billion or more do not use fluoride toothpaste at all.

We want people to be proud of their smiles: this video shows the work done by our volunteers in communities in Ghana to protect smiles and to educate people on the importance of brushing day and night.

We’re on a mission

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107 million People reached through our programmes

By the end of 2020, we had reached more than 107 million people through our Brush Day & Night educational programme, free dental checks and TV adverts promoting the importance of oral health and hygiene. That means we have more than doubled the 2020 target of 50 million that we had set ourselves through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (PDF 8.02MB).

Our ambition now is to reach more people and create impact with our purpose programmes – to unleash the power of healthy smiles by eradicating oral disease.

Good habits from a young age

Research shows that learning good toothbrushing habits at a young age can ingrain these habits for a lifetime.

Since 2005, we’ve been working in partnership with the FDI (World Dental Federation), an international organisation that represents over a million dentists. Together, we are working to improve oral health in over 25 countries through our Brush Day & Night educational school programmes that run for 21 days.

Why 21 days? Because that’s how long something needs to be practised for it to become a habit. This is the theory behind our Five Levers for Change (PDF 3.85MB) methodology.

In our school programme, we give kids practical tools like a 21-day calendar with stickers, to keep track of their toothbrushing – and their parents’ toothbrushing too.

We’ve seen that the programme has been successful in increasing twice-daily brushing behaviour in children by 25%. And on average, children at the end of the programme have lower levels of visible plaque than they do at the beginning.

Using digital to get kids excited about toothbrushing

Many parents struggle to get their children to brush their teeth day and night. Over the years, we’ve been increasingly tapping into digital technology to make toothbrushing fun and creating engaging content for kids.

The Adventures of Little Brush and Big Brush, for example, is a 21-episode digital video series that we created to make learning about oral hygiene exciting for kids, while helping them build good toothbrushing habits. Packed with entertaining animal characters, the series brings young children on an adventure around the world and shows them how to brush the right way, for two minutes. We have also adapted the video series into a storybook format.

Little Brush Big Brush

We are also digitising our flagship school programme materials into fun educational videos. This will help teachers and parents guide their kids on healthy toothbrushing habits.

Introducing Indonesia’s first digital dental service

Children and dentists posed in a group in the Pepsodent Dental Expert Centre waiting room

Oral health is a serious issue in Indonesia with seven out of ten children suffering from cavities. So we partnered with the Indonesian Dental Association to create the Pepsodent Dental Expert Centre (PEDC) – the country’s first and only free oral health centre that provides check-ups and oral health education. So far, more than 152,000 people, 1,600 school and university groups, and 17,000 dentists have benefited from the centre.

Moreover, when Covid-19 spread to Indonesia, making dental visits difficult, we did not let that stop us. Pepsodent built the country’s first-ever WhatsApp dental consultation service. This provides people with free, real-time consultations with dental professionals straight from their phones.

Over 12,000 people have already benefited from this initiative, accessing personalised oral care tips and expert recommendations.

Reaching a billion people every World Oral Health Day

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1 billion People we reach on World Oral Health Day

World Oral Health Day falls on 20 March each year, and it’s a great opportunity to remind people about the importance of brushing day and night.

Together with the FDI World Dental Federation, we raise awareness of this important, yet simple message.

We reach an average of a billion people every year through creative online campaigns, mass media coverage and even large-scale toothbrushing events with children pledging to brush day and night.

In 2021, World Oral Health Day went digital. As part of our campaign, we presented the findings of our new global research which shows the importance of parents role-modelling good brushing habits – as children are seven times more likely to skip brushing their teeth if a parent does the same. We also looked at how attitudes and behaviours towards oral health have been impacted during the pandemic, finding that in 2020, one in four children didn’t brush their teeth day and night.

Across the world, by organising virtual events and leveraging social media, we’re rallying families to build good toothbrushing habits together that last a lifetime.