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Illinois Kids Will Learn How to Fight Tooth Decay with Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s Land of Smiles Program

NAPERVILLE, Ill. – Jan. 24, 2019 – Nearly 2 in 5 Illinois children had at least one cavity in the past year.1 Oral health issues, like tooth decay, can cause children to miss school and negatively impact school performance.2,3 In fact, 38 percent of Illinois parents say their 6- to 12-year-old children had to miss school because of an oral health problem last year. 4

To help kids learn about the importance of good oral health and how to fight tooth decay, two costumed characters — Tooth Wizard and PlaqueMan — will put on a fun and interactive performance with Illinois students as part of the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s Land of Smiles program. The program is reaching nearly 43,000 pre-kindergarten through third-grade students in 183 Illinois elementary schools this year. In the past 12 years, the program has reached nearly 400,000 students at almost 850 Illinois schools.

"Land of Smiles helps children learn about the importance of taking care of their teeth in a fun way,” said Lora Vitek, director of philanthropy and community relations for Delta Dental of Illinois. “By teaching students 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 and poor oral health.”

Illinois parents struggle to get their kids to brush their teeth and floss regularly. In fact, 43 percent of them admit that their children ages 12 and under only brush once a day at best, according to the 2018 Delta Dental of Illinois Children’s Oral Health Survey.

Students will begin their oral health journey by helping the heroic Tooth Wizard defeat his arch nemesis, PlaqueMan, and learning the habits needed to have healthy smiles. Children will get involved in the interactive performance, helping demonstrate how to correctly brush, floss and use fluoride rinse, causing PlaqueMan to scurry off the stage in defeat. The free Land of Smiles program also teaches children the importance of choosing healthy food and drinks, visiting the dentist regularly and having sealants applied.

“It’s very rewarding to see how excited students get about this program,” Vitek said. “Our pre- and post-show surveys indicate that children remember the oral health lessons we cover. In fact, only 14 percent of pre-kindergarten through first-grade students knew how often to brush their teeth before the show, compared to 88 percent after the show.”

Poor oral health is one of the most pressing, unmet health care issues facing Illinois children — particularly those living in poverty and rural areas, according to Oral Health in Illinois, sponsored by Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation and other partners. 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.5

Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation believes prevention is key to reducing and eliminating tooth decay. With the Land of Smiles program, the Foundation helps children keep their smiles healthy to prevent tooth decay, so they can avoid missing school due to oral health problems.

Children who participate in Land of Smiles will receive a kit with a free toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and a booklet packed with oral health tips. For those interested in requesting a Land of Smiles appearance at their school, visit landofsmilesil.org

About the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation

The 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 and organizations in Illinois that improve the oral health of the residents of Illinois.

1 Delta Dental of Illinois Children’s Oral Health Survey, 2018. Kelton, a leading global insights firm, performed the survey. Interviews were conducted statewide via email with 150 Illinois parents of children ages 12 and under. For results based on the total sample of Illinois adults, the margin of error is plus or minus 8 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. https://www.youroralhealthhub.com/wp-content/themes/oralHealth/resources/DDIL-Childrens-Oral-Health-Report-2018.pdf

2 ”Poor Oral Health Can Mean Missed School, Lower Grades,” Colgate/American Dental Association. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/life-stages/childrens-oral-care/ada-08-poor-oral-health-can-mean-missed-school-lower-grades

3 “Does oral health influence school performance and school attendance? A systematic review and meta-analysis,” International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ipd.12441

4 Delta Dental of Illinois Children’s Oral Health Survey, 2018

5 Oral Health in Illinois Report, 2016.