Pacelli first-graders brush up on dental hygiene; First-graders get visit from Delta Dental of MN

Published 6:34 am Wednesday, October 23, 2019

First grade students at Pacelli Catholic Schools brushed up on a different kind of lesson on Tuesday afternoon.

Through Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation’s Smiles@Schools Program, around 30 backpacks were gifted to the Pacelli first grade students. Inside the bright green drawstring satchel, the children found a toothbrush, water bottles,  toothpaste, floss and even a timer that would track for how long a person should brush their teeth.

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Pacelli first grade teacher Christine Frederick has taught this unit as a part of her science class, mostly by showing her students how good dental hygiene can be preventative of several different types of diseases and protecting the teeth against cavities.

“I got contacted by one of the other first grade teachers and this was brought to my attention,” Frederick said. “These backpacks have always been sent to us. It ties in with science, and also in our religious studies where we teach the kids that God wants us to take care of ourselves by taking care of our bodies.”

Christine Frederick, a Pacelli first grade teacher, her students the various items that they would be able to take home with them thanks to the Delta Dental Smiles at Schools Program. Some of the items include: toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, a water bottle and a timer to help keep track of how long a person has brushed their teeth for.

More than 40,000 backpacks filled with fun and educational oral health items were distributed to more than 500 schools statewide as part of the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation’s Smiles@School education program. This program provides first grade students around Minnesota with tools to help them take care of their teeth. Among other aspects of the program, dental experts also provide sealants and fluoride treatments to thousands of at-risk second grade students statewide.

“Smiles@School is one of the signature programs of the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation,” said Joe Lally, executive director of Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. “We are thrilled to educate Minnesota kids about the importance of oral health at such a critical age.”

Having proper dental appointments can also affect a child’s academic performance. According to the American Dentists Association, the most chronic disease found in school-age children was cavities. This causes students to miss more than 51 million school hours every year.

By being able to prevent and have early detection, students can avoid pain, trouble eating, speech difficulty and school absences. The three-pronged Smiles@School program offers oral health education to all Minnesota first grade students, provides preventative dental care to second-graders at schools with high rates of poverty, and plans to assess the oral health of third grade students in a survey in 2020 led by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Dominic Bisanti, a Pacelli first grade student, searches his green drawstring satchel that was given to him through the Dental Dental Smiles at Schools Program. Inside, Bisanti found a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and timer.

Since 2016, the Smiles@School first grade education program has served around 180,000 students, with the program’s goal to get kids on the right track to maintain lifelong healthy smiles.

“Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease, even more common than asthma or allergies,” Lally said. “We are proud that this program provides oral health treatments to thousands of children each year.”

Each student was given a pamphlet that held different kinds of illustrations that showed what cavities were, as well as documenting how much sugar different types of drinks had. For some, this was an eye-opener in how even their favorite flavored pop can carry a lot of sugar that would be bad for their teeth.

During their lesson, Frederick showed the students the different items that came in their dental hygiene kit. By keeping a timer and brushing log, the teacher wanted her children to know that by brushing frequently, they’d be able to take better care of their adult teeth once their baby teeth fall out.

Katelyn Bonnes, a Pacelli first grade student, flips through a pamphlet that was given during class about dental hygiene. The Delta Dental Smiles at Schools Program brought 30 green drawstring satchels to Pacelli Catholic Schools as a way to give resources on how to take care of their teeth.

While they lined up for their bags, several students were already dancing in the classroom and imitating the motions of brushing their teeth with their new tools. A sing-along video also helped the children remember the importance of practicing healthy hygiene habits in a memorable way. For them, this was a fun time to learn about how to take care of themselves.

That was the case for Dominic Bisanti, a first grade student. When he opened his green drawstring satchel, a smile erupted on his face as he eagerly pretended to brush his teeth with his toothbrush. After learning about how much sugar his favorite pop had, Bisanti was more aware of how to limit himself when it came to caring for his teeth.

“I didn’t know that pop had 16 spoonfuls of sugar in it,” Bisanti said. “I’m happy (to get the backpack).”

Although this isn’t the first year that the Delta Dental Smiles at Schools Program has delivered the dental hygiene kits to students, it’s a memory that even older students recalled as they saw their younger peers with their green drawstring bags.

“As you can see, the students were very excited to get these backpacks and are very excited to share with their families and maybe their younger siblings about taking care of their teeth,” Frederick said. “It’s fun seeing older students when they see that the first grade students got their backpacks, and the older students remembering getting those when they were young.”