More than 40,000 backpacks filled with fun and educational oral health items are being distributed to more than 500 Minnesota schools as part of Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation’s Smiles@School education program. Lincoln and Voyager elementary schools are participating in this program.

The program provides first-graders with tools to help them care for their teeth, including a toothbrush, fluoridated toothpaste, a water bottle, an educational booklet and other items. The program also involves dental experts providing sealants and fluoride treatments to thousands of at-risk second-graders in the state.

The three-pronged Smiles@School program offers oral health education to first-graders, provides preventive dental care to second-graders at schools with high rates of poverty, and plans to assess the oral health of third-graders in a 2020 survey led by the Minnesota Department of Health. Since its onset in 2016, the Smiles@School first grade education program has served approximately 180,000 students.

“Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease – even more common than asthma or allergies," said Joe Lally, executive director of Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. Nationally, kids lose more than 51 million school hours each year due to dental disease.