Wheaton students get visit from mobile tooth characters

Wednesday, March 9, 2016
The Land of Smiles, a free, school-based program that teaches children healthy oral habits, recently visited Wheaton elementary students in pre-kindergarten through third grades. Since 2002, program actors, which include Tooth Wizard, Tooth Fairy and Plaque Man, have reached out to 750,000 children through 3,600 school-based performances. The 2016 Land of Smiles tour has two casts visiting more than 300 schools this year. Contributed photo

Fun program teaches local students healthy oral habits

Pre-kindergarten through third-grade students from Wheaton Elementary School recently got to meet some interesting characters when the Tooth Wizard and his sister, the Tooth Fairy, characters in Delta Dental of Missouri's Land of Smiles program, paid a visit to their school.

The program, which is free of charge to students, uses an upbeat, interactive format to educate school children and promote healthy habits to help prevent illness and disease as they grow, specifically a common childhood disease, tooth decay.

Delta Dental's Land of Smiles characters Tooth Wizard, Tooth Fairy and their archenemy Plaque Man are always on a mission in their travels, and in this case, they aimed motivate Barry County students to adopt healthy oral habits. The three characters have been traveling Missouri roads for more than 10 years on their mission.

Since 2002, the actors have reached out to 750,000 children through 3,600 school-based performances. The 2016 Land of Smiles tour has two casts visiting more than 300 schools this year.

During their visit, Tooth Fairy explained to Wheaton Elementary School students that, night after night, she collects all of the baby teeth left under pillows and places them high into the night sky over the mythical Land of Smiles to make "beautiful twinkling stars." But, the unhealthy teeth drop to the ground.

To prevent this from happening, the characters teach children about brushing and flossing properly, and visiting Tooth Wizard's best friend, the dentist.

Student volunteers got to dress up as teeth and help Tooth Wizard demonstrate the art of cleaning between teeth with floss and rinsing with mouthwash, and the characters discussed what foods are good and bad for teeth, along with the importance of having fluoride varnishes applied to teeth and making healthy lifestyle choices.

As a bonus, each child received a smile bag from Delta Dental containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, an educational coloring sheet and a mirror decal reminding them to brush twice daily.

"This program resonates with children and has been a real catalyst for change," said Monica Green, enterprise manager, marketing and communications for Delta Dental of Missouri. "We conduct pre- and post-show surveys, and results demonstrate that, on average, students have a 35-percent increase in their oral health knowledge and behavioral intentions after seeing our show. We've heard countless positive testimonies from parents touting how excited children are to brush and floss after learning the importance of these simple actions. One child's enthusiasm led to her brushing her dog's teeth."

After the show, teachers also received a bonus -- a Healthy Smiles Toolkit with a curriculum guide of six lessons and activities for teachers to reinforce oral health. The kit also includes a mouth model, toothbrush, children's books, a sing-a-long CD and a Land of Smiles DVD.

"The Land of Smiles program is presented at our school every-other-year," said Dana Bartkoski, school nurse at Wheaton Elementary School. "We appreciated the opportunity to recently host the Land of Smiles Dental Program for our Pre-K through third-grade students. Our students loved the interactive program, which covered all aspects of oral health. We always look forward to our Delta Dental presentation."

"The work accomplished through Land of Smiles is completed as part of our social mission," said Rob Goren, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Missouri. "We are committed to the well-being of the communities in our state, and we place great emphasis on outreach programs, school-based educational events and other oral health initiatives. Dental disease is 100-percent preventable. The formula is simple. You need to brush twice daily, floss and see a dentist twice a year."

For more information on having the Land of Smiles program visit local schools, people may go yo www.landofsmilesprogram.org, or call 888-383-0008. To learn more about Delta Dental, people may visit www.deltadentalmo.com.

Ninety-six percent of Missouri dentists participate in a Delta Dental network, and four out of five dentists participate nationally.

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