Improving Children's Oral Health in Illinois

Posted on February 22, 2016 in In the Community

Happy Girl Undergoing Dental Treatment

As the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation observes National Children's Dental Health Month throughout the month of February, it is a great time to remind parents, caregivers, and educators to brush up good oral health habits for children. Delta Dental of Illinois' Preventive Dental Care Study found that more than one third of children ages 6-18 in Illinois are at a higher risk for tooth decay.Tooth decay continues to be the leading chronic infectious disease among children in the United States. It not only causes pain, but also can interfere with a child's ability to eat, speak, smile and concentrate and can affect a child's overall health.

Starting good oral health habits now will help your child enjoy a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime:

  • Begin taking care of your child's oral health early. Schedule your child's first dentist appointment when they reach their first birthday or when the first tooth appears. Visit for more information.
  • Always use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to brush a child's teeth starting around age 1 and supervise a child brushing their own teeth until they reach age 8.
  • Ask your dentist about preventing tooth decay with sealants on molar teeth. They're easily applied by your dentist, and children with sealants are 78 percent less likely to need fillings.
  • Encourage your child to eat healthy with tooth-friendly snacks like cheese, yogurt, lean meats, veggies and fruits. The calcium in these foods and the act of chewing can help strengthen and clean teeth.
  • Always wear a mouthguard when participating in activities that carry a risk of mouth injury like organized sports, skateboarding, bicycling and more.

If you're interested in using the oral health tips above with those you serve and educate, you can download a printable version  to share. Oral health education materials are crucial to educating children and their caregivers about the importance of good oral health as it is closely related to one's overall health. The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation offers oral health supplies, like toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste, as well as oral health brochures and Teeth on the Go educational kits as gifts in-kind. You can easily order oral health brochures and posters  or contact the Foundation to learn more.

One way the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation is reinforcing oral heath tips for children is through its Land of Smiles program that is travelling across Illinois and will reach 35,000 kids in 85 schools this spring. Land of Smiles is an engaging and interactive educational program offered to schools throughout Illinois. This program features the heroic Tooth Wizard pitted against his nemesis, PlaqueMan as they battle for the oral health of children. This educational opportunity teaches pre-kindergarten through third-grade students how to fight tooth decay by following the proper methods to brush and floss.

Students are educated about the tools needed to defeat what the U.S. Surgeon General identifies as the most common chronic childhood disease—tooth decay. Provided free to schools by the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, Land of Smiles encourages children to brush, floss and rinse with fluoride. The importance of eating tooth-friendly foods and visiting the dentist regularly are also emphasized. More than half of Illinois third graders have had at least one cavity, a trend the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation aims to reverse.

“Kids get to have a hand in helping Tooth Wizard vanquish PlaqueMan, learning that they too can triumph over tooth decay by taking care of their teeth,” said Lora Vitek, director of philanthropy and community relations for the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation.

Click the video below to watch a preview of the Land of Smiles show.

Consider making a donation to the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation to give the gift of a Land of Smiles program to an Illinois school. Your donation will help more children in Illinois receive necessary oral health education and awareness – we believe these items are key to helping establish a lifetime of oral health.

Land of Smiles has reached more than 250,000 students at more than 800 Illinois schools in the past eight years.

If you are interested in bringing a Land of Smiles show to your school, visit

National Children's Dental Health Month in February brings together oral health professionals, health care providers and educators to help bring awareness of the benefits of good oral health habits to children, their caregivers and teachers. A child's oral health is closely related to his or her overall health, and childhood is the perfect opportunity to develop good oral hygiene which can help create a foundation for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. It is best to begin cleaning a child's teeth and mouth as early as possible and begin seeing a dentist regularly.

1 Delta Dental of Illinois' Preventive Dental Care Study is an annual study that investigates whether higher-risk children and adults receive the preventive care they need. For the calendar year 2014, the study analyzed Delta Dental of Illinois dental claims from 2013.