Delta Dental of Tennessee’s charitable arm, the Smile180 Foundation, has announced the launch of a statewide oral health education campaign in partnership with PBS KIDS stations across Tennessee.
The year-long “Have a Healthy Smile” campaign features a series of public service announcements (PSAs), local community events, and the release of a classroom curriculum, Healthy Smile Learning, designed to engage students across grades K-8 through a series of tailored lesson plans and videos.
“Oral health is essential to overall health, and teaching kids good habits at a young age sets them up for a lifetime of healthy smiles,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee. “PBS is the leader in engaging, educational kids programming and a natural partner to help make oral health more approachable to children and families across Tennessee.”
The campaign kicked off with a reading of You Can Become a Doctor Too by Dr. Christina Rosenthal hosted by West TN PBS at Hollis Powell Elementary School in Jackson, Tennessee on January 25. You Can Become a Doctor Too tells the story of a young boy, Art, and his classmates who believe that becoming a doctor is impossible until they meet one at Career Day.
Dr. Rosenthal, a graduate of the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Dentistry, founded a mentoring program, Determined to be a Doctor Someday (DDS), to encourage underrepresented students to pursue careers in healthcare. Inspired by her own journey, the DDS program exposes kids to career possibilities in healthcare in an engaging and age-appropriate format, with programs for kids ages 2-5 and ages 14-18. She is also a board member for the Smile180 Foundation.
“It’s a real honor to have You Can Become a Doctor Too featured in this campaign,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “I founded Determined to be a Doctor Someday – and wrote this book – so that all kids, regardless of their background, see that a career in healthcare is possible,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “With the support of Delta Dental, the Smile180 Foundation, and PBS, that message will now reach so many more kids across Tennessee.”
The “Have a Healthy Smile” campaign features three PSAs that will air on PBS stations across Tennessee throughout the year: Three Tips To A Healthy Smile, Are You Brushing Your Teeth Properly?, and How Food and Drinks Can Impact Your Smile. Each local Tennessee PBS KIDS station will also host a series of community events throughout the year. Highlights of each station’s plans include:
East Tennessee PBS (WETP) will deliver the Healthy Smiles curriculum and resources to 500 children in local Title I elementary schools as well as 12 parent educators serving 100 families alongside the Knox Ed Foundation’s Community Schools program and Knox County Parents as Teachers.
“For over fifty years, East Tennessee PBS has been a trusted resource for educational material for kids by parents, teachers, and caregivers. We’re thrilled to work with Delta Dental’s Smile180 Foundation to provide this important health information in a fun and memorable way. It’s a perfect partnership to ensure we focus on the whole child,” said Vickie Lawson, President/CEO, East Tennessee PBS. PBS in Cookeville (WCTE) will host two open-to-the-public events over the summertime, inviting almost 5,000 teachers from more than 15 area schools to participate.
“Our summer reading events are going to be a great way to reach children in our community, get them excited about taking care of their teeth, and maybe even get them interested in a career as a dentist,” said Sarah Savage, Education Coordinator, WCTE Cookeville.
PBS in Chattanooga (WTCI) will host family and community learning events at local family centers and libraries in downtown Chattanooga throughout April and May 2023. These events will be structured around fun family activities focused on health and wellness, as well as early literacy and learning goals. “I enjoy seeing children smile especially when watching PBS Kids and WTCI Educational programs. Good oral hygiene and dental health are important to children and families. The messages created through the support of Delta Dental’s Smile180 Foundation share wonderful practices for families,” said Bob Culkeen, President/CEO, WTCI-PBS Chattanooga.
PBS in Nashville (WNPT), through its LEARN TO READ program, will be hosting a series of workshops featuring Dr. Rosenthal’s You Can Become a Doctor Too. Nashville Public Television (NPT) reaches out to 30+ schools in the Nashville area to bring these workshops to the city’s youngest students. “Oral hygiene, just like reading, is essential to life. NPT’s workshops can help our littles understand the importance of self-care as they grow,” said Rosemary Brunton, Community Engagement Manager, Nashville Public Television.
PBS in Memphis (WKNO) will host a series of meet and greets with “Teacher Teacher,” a whimsical character who aims to let all children know that no matter who they are or where they come from, they are loved.
“WKNO Channel 10 is intentional in creating opportunities to share the importance of positive oral health habits for families. Parents are encouraged to read books to their children concerning good dental hygiene even before a child has received the first tooth. It is never too early to teach children to appreciate and take care of their winning smile,” said Teacher Teacher, a character created from the heart and soul of WKNO’s Education & Outreach Manager, Felicia Peat.
West TN PBS (WLJT) will continue to host readings of You Can Become a Doctor Too by Dr. Rosenthal, seeking to inspire more than 1,000 kids in rural West Tennessee to pursue careers in medicine – and encourage reading. West TN PBS is also attending local health fairs encouraging children to have healthy oral hygiene.
“I am very excited to bring the importance of dental care to our area schools. The activity books and toothbrushes are an essential part of teaching children how to smile. We value our children and strive to continue to educate them through our PBS resources as well as others like The Smile 180 Foundation. The book, You Can Be a Doctor Too, is perfectly aligned with grade level students and spurred many questions about how long you would have to go to school to be a doctor or a dentist,” said Jennifer Medford, Manager of Education and Community Engagement, West TN PBS.
To access the “Have a Healthy Smile” PSAs, educational materials, and other resources in one place, visit the Delta Dental of Tennessee Kids Corner. For more information about the community events happening across the state, contact your local PBS KIDS station.
To learn more about Delta Dental of Tennessee’s charitable work, visit the Smile180 Foundation website.
Delta Dental of Tennessee
Delta Dental of Tennessee is the state’s largest independent dental benefits carrier with 1.4 million lives covered. As part of the Delta Dental Plans Association, Delta Dental of Tennessee members have access to the largest dental network in the nation with more than 154,000 providers serving more than 443,000 locations. With the simple mission of ensuring healthy smiles, Delta Dental of Tennessee works hard to help members of the communities it serves. Along with its corporate foundation, Smile180, Delta Dental of Tennessee donated more than $5.4 million in funding and in-kind services to over 110 organizations in 2022.