The UNC School of Dentistry chapter of the Student National Dental Association (SNDA) introduced the “Lessons in a Lunch Box: Healthy Teeth Essentials and Facts about Snacks” program to Y.E. Smith Elementary School in Durham as one of the organizations outreach events for February, the recognized dental health month. The UNC Chapel Hill SNDA chapter hosted this event for the first time in coordination with the national SNDA initiative to implement the Lessons in a Lunchbox Program.
“Lessons In A Lunch Box: Healthy Teeth Essentials and Facts about Snacks” is an oral health literacy program designed to empower children and families with knowledge on good oral health, including routine dental care, oral health maintenance and good dietary choices. The program was created by Dr. Winifred Booker, a pediatric dentist and CEO of the Maryland Children’s Oral health Institute, in response to the numerous health and behavioral issues seen in children with dental caries.
Although dental caries, or decay, is largely preventable, it remains the most common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years. According to the U.S. Department of Public Health and Human Services, the occurrence of caries in these groups is 25 percent and 59 percent respectively. Tooth decay is four times more common than asthma among adolescents aged 14 to 17 years, with respective occurrences being 59 percent and 15 percent. Dental caries can be prevented in children and adults by maintaining good oral hygiene through regular tooth brushing and flossing.
SNDA selected Y.E. Smith Elementary School for this program because its student body, according to the Durham public school system, has one the district’s largest number of decayed, missing, and filled teeth. The “Lessons in a Lunch Box” program allowed SNDA to work with the school’s teachers and children to educate students about the proper way to care for their teeth and gums in hopes of eliminating this common disease.
To deliver their message, members of SNDA used songs, skits and educational lunchboxes to provide 200 elementary school children memorable oral health education. The elementary students received bright orange lunch boxes, pictured below, with a sand timer so children learn how long to spend brushing their teeth, and “Dental Care in a Carrot,” a carrot-shaped container holding a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and rinse cup. The lunch box includes labels which show demonstrations of flossing and brushing, tips for eating right and a list of the 56 U.S. dental schools. The lunch box also includes a reflective sticker that reads “See Yourself Becoming a Dentist” to encourage elementary school students to consider dental medicine as a career and to promote the profession.