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Creating a national holiday celebrating smiles, dental care

April 19, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Photo of Mr. Wojdyla and Dr. Stirneman
Founders: From left, Jim Wojdyla and Dr. Tim Stirneman founded May as National Dental Care Month and May 31 as National Smile Day.
Lake in the Hills,  Ill. — There's National Peanut Butter Day, followed by Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. There are days — however strange or silly — dedicated to celebrating everything from national parks and tapioca pudding to pumpkin pie and pets.
    
But when Dr. Tim Stirneman and his director of business development, Jim Wojdyla, looked online for national holidays that celebrate smiles and healthy teeth, they didn't find much. There's National Brush Day on Nov. 1 and National Children's Dental Health Month in February, which also includes National Tooth Fairy Day on Feb. 28.
    
"I wondered what it would take to get one of these holidays," said Dr. Stirneman, a general and cosmetic dentist in Lake in the Hills, Illinois.
    
That curiosity is the reason that this May — whether through social media or visiting their dentist — people can celebrate National Dental Care Month. The month ends with National Smile Day on May 31, which shares holiday real estate with National Macaroon Day and National Speak in Complete Sentences Day.
    
"We just thought it was a fun idea," Dr. Stirneman said. "We knew the holiday could spark some feel-good stories around dental health."
    
Dr. Stirneman and Mr. Wojdyla registered the day and month with the National Day Calendar, a North Dakota-based organization that tracks nearly 1,500 traditional and nontraditional national days, weeks and months.

Wanting to learn more about the application process, Dr. Stirneman said they called a number for the National Day Calendar they found online.
    
"We didn't think we'd get an answer but [Marlo Anderson], the founder of the calendar, picked up the phone," Dr. Stirneman said. "He told us our ideas were good and to go ahead and submit them both."
    
National Day Calendar receives about 20,000 applications each year but only 25 to 30 of them are approved by an internal committee, according to Mr. Anderson in a January 2019 interview with Slate. While it's free to apply, there is a fee to make a holiday recognized by the group.
    
Dr. Stirneman and Mr. Wojdyla submitted their application in November 2017. The holidays were finalized in spring of 2018.
    
According to the National Day Calendar, National Dental Care Month brings awareness to the importance of preventative dental care "just in time for a summer full of family reunions, weddings and vacations — all times we love to take pictures and smile." People are encouraged to observe National Dental Care Month by reviewing their dental habits and checking in with their dentist.
    
For National Smile Day, observers are encouraged to share photos of their smile on social media using the hashtag #NationalSmileDay. "There is so much a smile can do. Just one smile can brighten someone's day," according to the National Day Calendar website.
    
It takes about three years, Dr. Stirneman said, for a new holiday to pick up steam with the public. In 2018, the first year of National Dental Care Month and National Smile Day, the holidays generated some traction with some local news networks asking their viewers what made them smile.
    
Dr. Stirneman's practice, Compassionate Dentalcare, observed the first National Smile Day by donating more than $30,000 in free dental services such as cleanings and extractions. This year, Dr. Stirneman and Mr. Wojdyla are attending a book fair in New York to promote their children's book, "Mya Papaya Meets the Wizard of Teeth." In the story, which promotes dental health to children, one of the characters celebrates National Smile Day by going to the dentist.

"There are so many ways to celebrate," Dr. Stirneman said. "We just want to bring attention to the importance of dental health but also have some fun with it."