This week at Adams Elementary in Coon Rapids, a class of smiley first graders got a lesson in caring for their teeth and gums.
"We want you to always be sure you're using toothpaste, only a little bit," Delta Dental of Minnesota, Vice President of Medical Services, Dr. Eileen Crespo said.
Dr. Crespo is a pediatrician who brought the message of good oral health to 1st grade teacher, Tammi Hatch’s students, along with dental health kits provided by the Smiles@School program.
"They have a new toothbrush, they have a tiny little floss,” Crespo said. “We have a water bottle in there and we have a timer."
The green two-minute sand timer was a big hit with the students.
"When you are starting to brush your teeth, you'll tip it over and then the sand will take two whole minutes to come down,” Crespo said. “So you'll be brushing, brushing, brushing all that time and when the sand is done, then you can be done."
A 2023 survey of Minnesota teachers found that over half of their schools had no oral health education. Smiles@School hopes to change that.
"We know that kids really are motivated by routines and that's what they get at school.” Crespo said. “And our backpack and Smiles@ School program is to really start training kids to get that oral health routine every single day."
The Smiles@School program is funded by the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. This year the program will deliver more than 50,000 dental health kits to Minnesota first graders in over 600 schools, in all 87 counties across the state.