In many places in rural Appalachia, toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss are not seen as basic needs for keeping children’s teeth clean and healthy, but sadly a “luxury” that many parents simply cannot afford.
In fact, for these children, their parents have likely already lost teeth due to lack of preventative care and convenient access to dental care in their communities, and don’t place dental hygiene very high on their list priorities – if it’s even on their list at all.
That’s why several years ago we implemented our “Mighty Molars” program to provide thousands of children each year with a dental kit containing child-size toothbrushes, a six-month supply of toothpaste, and dental floss.
But our partners do not just hand out the kits and tell them “good luck,” without bringing dental hygienists into classrooms, afterschool programs, and community centers who not only show them the proper way to brush with hands-on instruction using oversized models of teeth – but WHY it is so important to brush their teeth for at least two minutes twice daily.
“Mighty Molars dental kits were given to all of our local students and then more kits were sent for us to help children in surrounding counties,” reported out partner in Beattyville, Kentucky. “Every child had toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss.
“The local dental clinic and health department did a presentation on dental hygiene for our students, and extra kits were sent home for the student’s siblings and other family members,” we were told by the program director who stressed that “It is important that we start at a young age teaching our children about proper dental care as it is a pre-curser to so many other health problems.”
In Beattyville, while many parents would like to be able to provide their children (and themselves) with something as basic as toothbrushes and toothpaste, for the majority of them the sad fact is it’s simply not financially possible.
“Parents often do not have the dental products the family needs and many children never brush their teeth,” she said. “We are working to get a mobile dental clinic to serve the area twice a year, and with the help of our Mighty Molars dental kits and presentations our children are doing a better job of taking care of their oral health.”
And it’s not only the children themselves who are benefiting as their parents are learning that it’s never too late to start taking better care of their own teeth as well.
“Parents are learning more about the importance of dental hygiene and how it affects their overall health,” we were informed. “Many times, if a child complains of a toothache, the first reaction of the parent is to have it pulled. But now they do come to us for help and we set them up with a local dentist.
“The Mighty Molars dental kits have been great in teaching the entire family how to take better care of their teeth.”
And as hard as it may be for most Americans to believe, “Many children have told me that the items in the kits – toothbrushes, toothpaste and especially the dental floss – are the first time they have had their very own dental supplies.
“When they have their own dental supplies, they take better care of them…and their teeth.”
This year, we are planning on shipping 2,000 Mighty Molars dental kits to our partners in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia to ensure the children who receive them will have the “tools for teeth” and the instruction they need to keep their smile big and bright not just for a year, but for a lifetime.