Dental health problems cause children between 5 and 17 years old to lose nearly two million school days each year nationwide.1 In Illinois, 23 percent children ages 6 to 12 missed school last year due to an oral health problem.2 In an effort to teach young children cavity-fighting oral health habits to keep them in class more often, the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s “Land of Smiles” program will visit Illinois schools this fall.
The highly entertaining and educational program, provided free to schools by the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, will teach Illinois pre-kindergarten through third-grade students how to properly clean their teeth to fight tooth decay and prevent cavities by helping heroic Tooth Wizard defeat his arch-enemy PlaqueMan. Although nearly preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease affecting children ages 6 to 11.
During the “Land of Smiles,” the characters with help from the kids will demonstrate the correct way to brush and floss teeth using an oversized mouth and toothbrush and teach kids why it is important to use a fluoride rinse and visit the dentist. While PlaqueMan tries to disrupt the kids’ healthy habits, Tooth Wizard teaches kids how to maintain a healthy smile.
“We’re hoping to help decrease the number of young children with cavities by teaching them how to properly care for their teeth and why good oral health is important to hopefully establish the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles,” said Lora Vitek, director of philanthropy and community relations for the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation. “Land of Smiles furthers our mission to improve Illinois children’s oral health and gets kids motivated to take care of their teeth.”
In order to keep PlaqueMan and his “icky, sticky” plaque at bay, Tooth Wizard offers the following tips to help children practice good oral health habits at home:
- Children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day for at least two minutes each time.
- Children’s teeth should be flossed once a day.
- Sugary and starchy foods should be limited by reserving them for mealtimes.
- Children should visit the dentist regularly and sealants should be applied to molars as recommended.
The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation provides children who attend the program a goody bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and oral health tips explaining how to take care of their teeth at home. Each participating school will receive a curriculum kit to help reinforce good oral health habits in the classroom.
“By testing students before and after shows, we know that ‘Land of Smiles’ has a measurable impact on them. We think the program really resonates with the kids because it makes learning about oral health fun,” said Vitek. “By the end of each show, children are literally cheering ‘brush, brush, brush’ to help Tooth Wizard defeat PlaqueMan.”
This year, the “Land of Smiles” program will reach more than 31,000 pre-kindergarten through third-grade students in 155 Illinois elementary schools. The program has reached more than 250,000 students at more than 800 Illinois schools in the past eight years.
For those interested in requesting a “Land of Smiles” appearance at their school or supporting the program so it can reach more children, visit landofsmilesil.org.
1 Attendance Works/Healthy Schools Campaign, Mapping the Early Attendance Gap: Charting a Course for Student Success, 2015
2 Kelton, a leading global insights firm, conducted the 2015 Delta Dental of Illinois Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted statewide via email with 231 parents of children ages 12 and under. For results based on the total sample of Illinois adults, the margin of error is ±6.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.