SCOTT AFB – Poor oral health and tooth decay can cause discomfort and result in young students having difficulty participating or concentrating in school. Nearly 40 percent of children in Illinois have had a cavity in the past year, and about one in five kids in Illinois has untreated tooth decay.1 To help kids learn about the importance of good oral health and how to fight decay, Tooth Wizard and PlaqueMan, characters from the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s Land of Smiles program, visited students at Scott Elementary School on Oct. 18.
Although largely preventable with good oral health habits, the U.S. Surgeon General identifies tooth decay as the most common chronic childhood disease. Illinois children’s oral health habits could use improvement. According to the 2018 Delta Dental of Illinois Children’s Oral Health Survey, more than 43 percent of Illinois children brush their teeth once a day or less and nearly three-quarters floss their teeth less than once a day.2
“Our recent Children’s Oral Health Survey shows that Illinois children can greatly benefit from oral health education, which is a part of our mission,” said Lora Vitek, director of philanthropy and community relations, Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation. “Land of Smiles helps children learn about the importance of taking care of their teeth in a fun way. By teaching them why brushing, flossing and using mouthwash with fluoride should be parts of their daily routine, we hope to reduce the number of young children with cavities or poor oral health.”
Scott Elementary students began their oral health journey by helping the heroic Tooth Wizard defeat his arch nemesis, PlaqueMan, by learning the habits needed to have healthy smiles and bodies. Children got involved in the fun during the interactive performance, helping demonstrate how to correctly brush, floss and use fluoride rinse, which caused PlaqueMan to scurry off the stage in defeat. The free Land of Smiles program also taught children the importance of eating smile-friendly foods, visiting the dentist regularly and having sealants applied.
The Land of Smiles program seeks to combat poor oral health. The Oral Health in Illinois report, released in 2016 and sponsored by Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation and others, found that poor oral health is one of the most pressing, unmet health care issues facing Illinois children – particularly for those living in poverty and rural areas. In fact, the report found that one-third of Illinois children in rural areas have untreated tooth decay, and Illinois children living in poverty are five times more likely to have fair or poor oral health.3
“Prevention is key to reducing and eliminating tooth decay,” said Vitek. “Oral health education provided by the Land of Smiles program helps children keep their smiles healthy to prevent tooth decay in the first place, so they can avoid missing school due to oral health problems.”
In addition to the oral health lesson, children who participated in Land of Smiles received an oral health kit with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and a booklet packed with oral health tips. The school also received a curriculum kit to help educators reinforce good oral health habits with students throughout the year.
In 2018, the Land of Smiles program will reach nearly 38,000 pre-kindergarten through third-grade students in nearly 175 Illinois elementary schools throughout the state. The program has reached over 330,000 students at more than 800 Illinois schools in the past 10 years.
For those interested in requesting a Land of Smiles appearance at their school, visit landofsmilesil.org.
About Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation – 0The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation was formed in March 2008 by Delta Dental of Illinois, a not-for-profit dental service corporation with a mission to improve the oral health of the communities it serves. Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation is the 501(c)(3) charitable arm of Delta Dental of Illinois and works to support and improve the oral health of people in Illinois. In the past decade, combined efforts of Delta Dental of Illinois and Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation have provided more than $5 million to programs in Illinois that improve the oral health of the residents.