Submitted by Delta Dental of Washington.
Even though most children consider the Tooth Fairy an essential worker, COVID-19-related protocols – including distance learning – have the Tooth Fairy visiting kids classrooms in a safe, new way.
As a champion for good oral health, the Tooth Fairy has expanded her popular in-person youth education program – The Tooth Fairy Experience – to also include virtual learning opportunities for K-2 classrooms, while providing helpful content for teachers statewide.
The program, presented free by Delta Dental of Washington and developed in partnership with the School Nurse Organization of Washington (SNOW) and Arcora Foundation, is designed to help improve dental habits at an early age. The Tooth Fairy Experience features a diverse team of tooth fairies eager to educate kids about good dental health, which is important considering that more than half of the state’s third graders have experienced preventable tooth decay. As such, the program is intended to help prevent cavities, while increasing the number of kids who regularly visit the dentist.
Since launching last fall, The Tooth Fairy Experience has reached more than 25,000 children under the age of 10 through presentations at schools, community centers, public libraries, after-school programs and other public places where kids gather. With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting in early March, the program has been focused mainly on providing free downloadable educational materials and storybook videos for home-use by parents.
With a new academic year now underway, school nurses statewide are helping promote the program’s new virtual twist – which brings the Tooth Fairy into classrooms virtually via videoconference. Currently, the Tooth Fairy offers two interactive lessons, each 20-30 minutes, focused on Caring For Your Smile and Good Nutrition & Healthy Habits.
Another addition to the program is a new children’s storybook, The Clean Teeth Club, locally authored and illustrated by Kelly Rae Bahr, and published by Delta Dental. The original story follows a young boy on his quest to find the perfect club – The Clean Teeth Club – which he is able to join after successfully completing a series of dental health-related tasks with support from his dentist and the Tooth Fairy.
Each presentation includes a storybook reading and is tailored to the group size, grade level, and setting – whether virtual, or in-person following all PPE guidelines and safe distancing when allowed. The presentations can also include fun smile facts, proper brushing techniques, tooth science experiments, healthy food choices, a sugar demonstration and more.
Following each presentation classrooms are provided with a copy of the storybook and special gifts for the students – with distribution assistance from teachers – including a dental health kit (kid-sized toothbrush, toothpaste and floss) inside a Tooth Fairy-branded pencil pouch which also contains a tooth fairy wand pencil, tooth eraser and two-minute timer to help kids track their two minutes of teeth brushing, twice each day.
Educators interested in scheduling a presentation for their students are invited to complete a “Request a Tooth Fairy Visit” form on the program’s website www.TheToothFairyExperience.com or send an email to Hello@TheToothFairyExperience.com.
In addition, the program features a K-2 classroom component for educators, available for free download also on the program’s website. The classroom educational materials include a 12-minute video featuring the Tooth Fairy, educator lesson plans and student worksheets. All materials have been dentist, teacher, school nurse and child-reviewed.
“Building healthy dental habits start at a young age. Many times, students have never even been to the dentist and have not had a chance to talk about building dental hygiene,” said Katherine Courtney, a school nurse with the School Nurse Organization of Washington. “The Tooth Fairy Experience’s virtual presentations have provided an easily accessible, fun, interactive, and engagement presentation about oral health.”
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).
“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. Abbie Goudarzi, a licensed dentist and Delta Dental of Washington dental consultant. “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,” said Dr. Goudarzi. “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, Tooth Fairy hotline with pre-recorded messages, and links to Delta Dental of Washington resources such as help in finding a dentist. In addition, parents can follow the Tooth Fairy on her own Facebook and Instagram channels (@ToothFairyWA).