The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health has launched a public oral health awareness campaign and distributed 58,000 toothbrushes in observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month this February.
“Poor oral health is the number one cause of school absenteeism, and it’s entirely preventable,” said Maryjane Puffer, executive director of the LA Trust.
Screenings of 3,399 elementary school students in Los Angeles found that 66% of children had active dental disease, 27% had visible tooth decay, and 6% required emergency care.
Puffer said the LA Trust is working closely with its partners in the oral health community, including LA Unified Student Health and Human Services, LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell division, UCLA’s More LA Smiles, the LA County Department of Public Health, and other agencies, foundations, and dental care providers.
Puffer also gave special thanks to Crest, which provided toothpaste to go with the thousands of toothbrushes being distributed.
Los Angeles School Board member Scott Schmerelson took the LA Trust’s Brushing with Billy campaign directly to kids during an online Local District “Twinkle Time” on February 3, using the puppet show to show young students how to brush, floss, and eat right.
“Improving the health and lives of all LA Unified students and providing access to oral healthcare is a critical element to ensuring student achievement and success,” said Schmerelson.
“As we celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month, we are grateful for our partnership with the LA Trust and will continue to support their oral health awareness initiative so our students can stay healthy and benefit from a wealth of resources,” he said.
The LA Trust is releasing three oral health videos on social media this month. The “Brushing with Billy” videos feature program manager Esther Yepez and the kid-friendly puppet.
The spots, which focus on brushing, flossing, and healthy eating, have been aired 150 times of KLCS-TV, reaching an estimated viewership of more than 1.1 million.
The LA Trust also facilitated the broadcast of UCLA More LA Smiles oral health TV spots featuring Sesame Street characters, which will be shown on KLCS remote learning channels through February.
“People don’t understand the disease process when it comes to cavities. It’s insidious,” said More LA Smiles project director Dr. Jim Crall, adding that simple changes in student behavior can make a big difference and that education is key.
“Prevention is key to oral health, and that includes screenings and education,” Puffer said.
“The pandemic has transformed our oral health education activities but not our commitment. We will continue to use every means at our disposal to ensure that kids and teens enjoy the best possible oral health during this pandemic,” Puffer said.
SHHS organization facilitator Gloria Velasquez noted that seven wellness centers and school-based health clinics are currently providing partial or full oral health services for students and community members:
- El Sereno Middle School (Western Dental)
- Hart Street Elementary School (Dr. Samoha)
- Jefferson Wellness Center (South Central Family Health Center)
- Maclay and Sun Valley Middle Schools (NEVHC)
- Monroe (Valley Community Health, appointment only)
- Washington Prep Wellness Center (St. John’s Family and Wellness Center)