Education is the first step in preventing dental disease. And for communities where access to dental care is restricted, it is especially important to educate children and those who care for them that prevention is imperative.
One in five children do not get dental care each year like they should. For children who don’t understand why good home care is important to prevent cavities and gum disease, the results can be devastating. That’s why, in addition to increasing access to dental care, America’s ToothFairy is committed to promoting oral health education.
In the dawn of the pandemic, as it became clear that children would not be getting life-changing dental care and education at their schools, we took action to ensure kids could still learn about oral health by providing easier access to downloadable education content, hosting an online oral health education campaign, and launching a new initiative called Smile Guardian, an opportunity for sponsors to provide printed educational materials and dental hygiene supplies for community organizations that reach children in need and their families.
In that first year, a handful of sponsors provided 57 Smile Guardian kits that reached 2,850 kids. The initiative has grown since then as more dental professionals and dental-related companies have signed on to become Smile Guardians by sponsoring education kits.
In just three years the number of kits distributed this year is more than eight times higher at 460! This year Smile Guardian sponsors gave to help us provide resources to public libraries, school nurses, afterschool programs, preschools and daycares, homeless shelters, food pantries and other organizations that serve children in under resources communities to reach a total of 75,500 and their caregivers.
The year kicked off with kits sponsored by MGE: Management Experts to support the back-to-school outreach efforts of nonprofit dental clinics and oral health programs. These robust kits, designed to reach 10,000 kids, were the first in a new series with a superhero theme and included fun activity booklets, dry-erase brushing charts, 2-minute timers, toothbrushes, and superhero-themed photo booth props.
“We were lucky to receive these resources and can tell the impact it had on our outreach effort,” Sophie Parsons of Augusta Regional Dental Clinic in Fishersville, Virginia told us. “They helped us engage the conversation with young patients and their parents during our community events. As a result, we have welcomed 454 new patients. That represents a 60% increase compared to the same period the year before!”
Another initiative milestone for 2023 came in February when we launched Storytime Smiles with help from Delta Dental. Through this project, libraries in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Kentucky received kits that included oral health-themed books to host story time events that reached a total of 35,000 young children and their parents.
Delta Dental of North Carolina sponsored Team ToothFairy kits that equipped advocates in North Carolina including school nurses, dental hygienists and public health workers to reach 1,000 kids.
Additionally, Patterson Dental sponsored Smile Guardian kits to help us expand programming to engage food pantries and after-school programs to provide oral health resources, education and connections to area clinics for 25,000 children. This project also enabled us to offer virtual training to equip non-dental professionals to provide oral health instruction and foster future collaboration with the community organizations that received the kits.
During the summer we distributed kits sponsored by Cranberry to nonprofit dental clinics that provide care to children in under served communities in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Alabama, West Virginia, and Nebraska.
Other generous Smile Guardians for this year included Cherrywood Dental Associates in Greenbelt, MD and Cleveland Smile Center in Cleveland, OH. These dental offices sponsored kits that were delivered to organizations reaching kids in their local communities.