With more than half of the state’s third graders having experienced tooth decay, a new program launching next week – during National Health Education Week – is designed to help improve dental habits at an early age.
The new year-round statewide program, presented free by Delta Dental of Washington, called The Tooth Fairy Experience, makes pediatric dental health education interactive, and even fun for kids. This educational effort is intended to help reduce the incidence of tooth decay among children and increase the number of kids who regularly visit the dentist – among Apple Health subscribers in Pierce County that number is only 51.2 percent.
The Tooth Fairy Experience is an interactive presentation designed for kids 10 and under, which takes place in community centers, libraries, after-school programs and other public places where kids gather. Each presentation – which is tailored to the size of the group, age range and venue – lasts approximately 30 minutes and provides valuable knowledge about how kids can take better care of their smiles. The presentations, led by the Tooth Fairy, typically include fun smile facts, an age-appropriate dental-themed storybook reading, and hands-on educational activities such as dental bingo and flossing practice using Play-Doh and giant LEGO blocks, among others. Each child also has an opportunity to have their photo taken with the Tooth Fairy, and leaves with a new toothbrush.
The program also features a K-2 classroom component for educators, available for free download at the program website, www.TheToothFairyExperience.com. The classroom educational materials include a 12-minute video featuring the Tooth Fairy focused on caring for your smile, educator lesson plans and student worksheets. Over the next couple years additional videos and classroom materials will be developed to focus on the role of nutrition in good oral health, as well as the importance of physical activity – including the use of mouthguards in sports – in caring for your kids’ oral and overall health. All materials have been dentist, teacher, school nurse and child-reviewed.
According to Delta Dental’s 2016 National Children’s Oral Health Survey, 30 percent of U.S. parents reported that their children (between the ages of six and 12) missed school in the previous year due to an oral health problem (as opposed to a regularly scheduled dental appointment).
“Community Health Care recently opened health clinics in schools across Pierce County – one of the fastest growing school districts in the state of Washington” said Community Health Care Dental Director Jeff Reynolds, a Delta Dental of Washington member dentist. “Through these clinics I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of limited access to treatment, poor oral hygiene, and a lack of adequate home care instruction.”
“Children who experience tooth decay are more likely to miss school, have lower academic success, and have an increased risk for lifelong dental problems,” said Dr. Reynolds. “Over time poor oral health can increase systemic inflammation which may limit growth and development, as well as increase the risk of adverse health outcomes including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
“It’s unacceptable that more than half of our state’s third graders have tooth decay,” added Dr. Reynolds. “Dental disease is the single most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than seasonal allergies. Fortunately, with early childhood education through programs like The Tooth Fairy Experience, along with routine dental care, community water fluoridation, topical fluoride treatments and dental sealants the majority of severe pediatric tooth decay can be prevented and can set children on a course for a lifetime of healthy smiles.”
The Tooth Fairy Experience website also provides helpful resources for parents and caregivers, with a dental tips blog, child dental health activity sheets for home use, a quarterly newsletter Grin & Grow, Tooth Fairy letters for children, and links to Delta Dental of Washington resources such help in finding a dentist. In addition, parents can follow the Tooth Fairy on her own Facebook and Instagram channels (@ToothFairyWA) for helpful tips and to learn where the Tooth Fairy will be visiting next.
“Our visit from the Delta Dental Tooth Fairy was fun, engaging and interactive. The Tooth Fairy kept us entertained while teaching us facts about our teeth and ways to keep our smile clean and healthy,” said Nina Yu, a first-grade teacher at Hedden Elementary School in Fife, whose classroom participated in a pilot of the program earlier this year.
Meet the Tooth Fairy
The Tooth Fairy is coming to Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium for a public appearance (zoo admission is required) as part of her statewide launch at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. The presentation will include a reading of the book “The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist,” as well as fun dental facts and educational activities, including a look at which candies are best (and worst) for young teeth just in time for Halloween. Attendees will receive a new toothbrush and a copy of the book.Print This Post