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Land of Smiles Program Facts

About Land of Smiles

  • Land of Smiles, an interactive oral health educational program, is offered by Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation free of charge to Illinois elementary schools statewide. This program supports the Foundation’s mission to improve oral health in Illinois by teaching children the importance of oral health, and how to care for their teeth to prevent tooth decay and other oral health conditions.
  • Although largely preventable, the U.S. Surgeon General identifies tooth decay as the most common chronic childhood disease affecting children.
  • Childhood is the time when good oral health habits should begin. Education is the key to preventing oral health disease and establishing a lifetime of healthy smiles. Land of Smiles focuses on educating in a manner that is easy for children to understand and apply to their lives.
  • Two characters, Tooth Wizard and PlaqueMan, interactively teach the value and practice of brushing, flossing and using fluoride rinse. They also discuss good and bad foods for overall health. In addition, they remind children why it is important to visit the dentist regularly.
  • This year, the Land of Smiles program will reach nearly 42,000 pre-kindergarten through third-grade students in 185 Illinois elementary schools. In the past 12 years, the program has reached about 416,000 students at 861 Illinois schools.

Continued Benefits for Students

  • Every child who attends a Land of Smiles performance receives a kit with a free toothbrush, toothpaste and floss along with oral health tips in English and Spanish explaining how to take care of their teeth.

Oral Health Trends Among Illinois Children

  • Studies show that 22 percent of Illinois third-graders have untreated tooth decay.
  • One-third of Illinois children in rural areas have untreated tooth decay. Illinois children living in poverty are five times more likely to have fair or poor oral health.1
  • More than 4 out of 10 (43 percent) of parents say their children’s teeth are brushed only once a day or less, and nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of parents report their children’s teeth are flossed less than once a day.2 It’s recommended that children brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss once daily.
  • Thirty-nine percent of Illinois children had at least one cavity in the past year — and 38 percent of Illinois parents say their children between the ages of 6 and 12 had to miss school due to an oral health problem in the past 12 months. Thirty-seven percent visited the dentist only one time or less in the past year.2

Measurable Results

The Land of Smiles program has a measurable impact on Illinois children. According to tests given to children before and after attending the show:

  • Flossing: Eighty-two percent of pre-kindergarten through first-grade students thought flossing was good for teeth before seeing the Land of Smiles performance, compared with 94 percent after the show.
  • Brushing: Only 14 percent of pre-kindergarten through first-grade students knew how to correctly brush their teeth before the show, compared to 88 percent after the show. Similarly, only 33 percent of second- and third-grade students knew how to correctly brush before the show, compared with 92 percent after the show.
  • Plaque: Fifty-six percent of second and third-grade students knew that plaque was bad for teeth before the show, compared to 97 percent after the show.
  • Fluoride rinse: Seventy-two percent of second and third-grade students thought that they should use fluoride rinse before the show, compared with 91 percent after the show.
  • Food: Thirty-nine percent of pre-kindergarten through first-grade students were able to name two foods that are good for teeth before the show, compared with 90 percent after the show.

About Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation

  • Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
  • The Foundation’s mission is to improve the oral health of people in Illinois, with an emphasis on children.
  • Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation recognizes that many children and their families do not know how to properly prevent cavities or maintain oral health.
  • The Foundation supports programs that provide oral health education and access. Land of Smiles is the Foundation’s signature program that works to improve oral health by focusing on prevention through education.
  • Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation accepts donations. All donations are tax deductible. Any individual, company or organization can become a Land of Smiles sponsor and bring the program to a school for a donation of $1,500. Illinois elementary schools already scheduled can be sponsored or new schools can be requested and added based on availability.
  • For more information on Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, visit deltadentalil.com/ddilfoundation.

1 Oral Health in Illinois, 2016.

2 2018 Delta Dental of Illinois Children's Oral Health Survey.