Online Staff Report
LOVES PARK, Ill. — Although cavities are nearly 100 percent preventable, more than one in four Illinois children had at least one cavity in the past year. As a way to teach cavity-fighting habits to Loves Park pre-kindergarten through third-grade students, the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s “Land of Smiles” program will be at Loves Park Elementary School April 7 and Windsor Elementary School April 8.
During the highly entertaining and educational program, provided free to schools by the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, students will learn how to properly remove plaque from teeth to fight cavities, helping heroic Tooth Wizard defeat his arch-enemy PlaqueMan for the health of kids’ smiles.
The two costumed characters will demonstrate the correct way to brush and floss teeth using an oversized mouth and teach kids why it is important to visit the dentist twice a year. These are essential oral health habits that Illinois children need to brush up on, according to a survey by Delta Dental of Illinois.
“By teaching children the importance of good oral health and how to take care of their teeth at an early age, we can encourage a lifetime of healthy habits,” 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 excited about dental care. By the end of the program, they are literally cheering ‘brush, brush, brush’ to help Tooth Wizard defeat PlaqueMan and learning important oral health lessons.”
While PlaqueMan tries to disrupt the kids’ healthy habits, Tooth Wizard will also educate them about tooth-friendly foods, why it’s important to have sealants applied and how mouthwash can help fight cavities. To demonstrate, Tooth Wizard will drape student volunteers with white sheets to represent teeth and cover them with fluoride rinse made of streamers.
To keep PlaqueMan, and his “icky, sticky” plaque at bay, following are some of the oral health habits Illinois children need to work on, according to Delta Dental of Illinois’ survey of 151 Illinois caregivers:
• Children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time. Only 56 percent of Illinois children’s teeth are brushed twice a day and 30 percent are brushed for less than 2 minutes.
• Once any two teeth are touching, caregivers should help children floss once a day. Forty-four percent of survey respondents with children who have teeth report their children’s teeth are never flossed, and of children whose teeth are flossed, only 19 percent are flossed daily.
• Children should visit the dentist at least twice a year. Only 62 percent of Illinois children who have visited the dentist have been twice in the past 12 months.
The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation provides kids who attend the program a goody bag with oral health supplies, and each participating school will receive a curriculum kit to help reinforce good oral health habits with its students.
“We are excited about the opportunity to teach Illinois children about good oral health habits,” said Vitek. “It’s extremely important that parents and caregivers also establish and reinforce these same habits at home.”
This year, more than 30,000 pre-kindergarten through third-grade students in more than 130 Illinois elementary schools will enjoy the “Land of Smiles” program. The program has reached nearly 210,000 students at more than 700 Illinois schools in the past seven years.
Posted April 2, 2014