SPRING VALLEY — As more than 2 million Illinois students strive for success both in and out of the classroom this fall, Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation is helping to ensure that tooth decay doesn’t get in the way of them performing their best.
Tooth Wizard and PlaqueMan visited John F. Kennedy Elementary in Spring Valley on Oct. 16 as part of Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s popular Land of Smiles program.
In a fun and interactive performance, these two costumed characters taught kids the correct way to brush, floss and use fluoride rinse. They also talked about the importance of choosing healthy foods and drinks, visiting the dentist regularly and having sealants applied.
“Good dental habits begin early, and healthy teeth develop during the elementary school years,” said Lora Vitek, director of enterprise philanthropy and community benefit for Delta Dental of Illinois. “For more than a decade, Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation has partnered with local schools to provide the free Land of Smiles program — a great way to teach kids how to properly take care of their teeth and gums. This education builds the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health.”
Tooth decay can get in the way of students’ attendance, concentration and performance at school. Nearly 40 percent of Illinois elementary school children miss school because of cavities or other oral health problems. A checkup with the dentist is required by law for Illinois students in kindergarten, second, sixth and ninth grade. But it’s also key for students to maintain good oral health habits — such as brushing twice a day and flossing daily — throughout the school year.
The Land of Smiles program has a measurable impact on Illinois children. For example, tests given to children before and after the performance showed that only 33 percent of second- and third-grade students knew how to correctly brush their teeth before the show, compared to 92 percent after the show.
“Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation is proud of the difference the Land of Smiles program makes in teaching kids how to take care of their teeth, which helps them to be successful in school,” Vitek said. “Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases affecting children, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a disease that’s largely preventable.”
Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, the charitable arm of Delta Dental of Illinois, works to support and improve the oral health of people in Illinois, with a specific focus on children.
The foundation partners with school administrators and nurses to bring the free Land of Smiles program to Illinois elementary schools each spring and fall. The program has reached about 416,000 students at 861 Illinois elementary schools over the past 12 years. This year, it is reaching nearly 42,000 pre-kindergarten through third-grade students in 185 Illinois schools.
Children who participate in Land of Smiles receive a kit with a free toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and a booklet packed with oral health tips.