A `Molardrama` inspires catcalls when Madam LaPlaque lurks on the stage and, just maybe, inspires better dental health.
Lourdes Vasquez, RDH, MS, and
Diane Huntley, RDH, PhD
Molardrama is a program developed for National Children`s Dental Health Month. The purpose of this program is to educate second-grade children about good dental health. The actors of Wichita Children`s Theater present, "Cavity Crisis in Cowtown." The theatrical production allows children to interact with the characters, Dr. Desmond Denton, Sheriff Casey Canine, Adora Dainty, and Madam LaPlaque (the Wicked Witch of Tooth Decay). The program presents messages about dental health in an entertaining context, increasing involvement and retention of information.
Ten shows are given during the first week in February, and about 500 second graders attend each show. Responses of the children and teachers have been very enthusiastic. This program is coordinated by a hygienist at the County Department of Community Health and is supported by local dental associations and community organizations.
The program includes a play presented in a melodrama format (the molardrama), handouts, and interaction with the play`s characters. The rationale for using this format is to present an educational message in an entertaining fashion that involves the children in the experience. Researchers in dental education, as well as secondary education, note:
- Entertaining formats can be useful in health education.
- Drama is considered to be a powerful educational tool.
- Drama puts children in touch with their current knowledge and understanding at whatever level it may be.
This National Children`s Health Month activity is organized by dental hygienists employed by the Wichita-Sedgwick County Public Health Department. A planning committee composed of representatives from professional and volunteer organizations meets during the fall. The organizations include the Wichita District Dental Society, Wichita Dental Hygienists` Association, Kansas Dietetics Association, Wichita State University Dental Hygiene Department, the dental assisting program at the Wichita Area Technical College, and the Wichita Children`s Theater.
The Wichita Children`s Theater provides the facilities and actors for the Molardrama. The majority of the funding is provided by the Wichita District Dental Society. Additional support comes from the Boeing Employees Good Neighbor fund, Via Christi Regional Medical Center-Safe Kids, Goetze-Neimer Company, local dental labs, local dentists, and the Wichita Dental Hygienists Association.
In November, registration forms and letters were sent to school nurses at each public and parochial school in the county, a total of 124 schools. The registration forms are to be completed by the second-grade teachers who wish for their class to attend. The forms ask for the number of students in the class and preferred date of attendance.
In 1999, 208 classes from 80 schools attended. Due to space limitations at the Wichita Children`s Theater, each performance is limited to 500 children. Two performances per day are given during the first week in February.
Preparation for the Molardrama takes place on the Friday before the first performance. Volunteers from local high schools and the WSU dental hygiene department prepare the goody bags and materials to be handed out. They also prepare bags for teachers. Staff of the Wichita Sedgwick County Dental Clinic decorate the entrance and the stage area of the Wichita Children`s Theater to be compatible with the theme of the Molardrama.
The opening act
As the students arrive, each one receives a goody bag and walks past volunteers who have goodies. Each student receives a toothbrush, a coupon for a free apple at a local supermarket, stickers, and bookmarks. The latter are inscribed with messages about good health habits regarding dental health, smokeless tobacco, nutrition, and other health issues. Each classroom teacher receives a bag with a sample of floss for each student in the class to be distributed after the students return to school.
The handouts were contributed by (or funding was provided by) the Boeing Employees` Good Neighbor fund, Wichita-Sedgwick County Health Department, PANDA (Prevent Abuse and Neglect Through Dental Awareness) program of Delta Dental of Kansas, the American Cancer Society, Dillon`s Supermarkets, and community dentists. The children also met the Tooth Fairy and got hugs from the Panda mascot of Delta Dental`s PANDA program.
Once the children were seated, actors from the Wichita Children`s Theater began with a review of good and bad snack foods. Volunteers from the audience were selected to wear food costumes, and the audience was encouraged to shout out "good" or "bad" for each snack. Then a six-foot-tall tooth, Molar McClean from the Wichita Dental Hygienists Association, joined actors from the Molardrama in teaching brushing and flossing before the play began.
The Molardrama, "Cavity Crisis in Cowtown," was written by Zoe Hurst. The play is set in Cowtown, a typical frontier town of the early west. The name is based on an area in Wichita called Cowtown, which has a recreation of the buildings in Wichita when it was first settled.
The characters in the Molardrama are Dr. Desmond Denton, DDS; his niece and assistant Adora Dainty; the hero Sheriff Casey Canine; and the villain Madam LaPlaque, who is really the Wicked Witch of Tooth Decay in disguise.
The Wicked Witch of Tooth Decay has come to Cowtown with her traveling medicine show and is selling magic candy. You can eat all you want and never have to spend a single minute brushing and flossing. The town dentist, Dr. Denton, becomes suspicious. Madam LaPlaque tries to enlist his help, pointing out that the very fine print on the label explains that you won`t have to spend a single minute brushing and flossing after eating her candy because you won`t have any teeth. This increase in decay and need for dentures will increase Dr. Denton`s business.
When he spurns her offer and threatens to expose her dastardly plot, she hits him with her witchy whammy. His niece, Adora Dainty, and heroic Sheriff Casey Canine save the day and foil Madam LaPlaque`s evil scheme. Unfortunately, the Wicked Witch of Tooth Decay manages to escape, vowing to decay every tooth in everyone`s mouth.
The audience is very enthusiastic about the performance, cheering the hero and booing the wicked witch. The messages about dental health and being a wise consumer are presented in an entertaining format. The involvement by the children aids in remembering the information. In addition to the benefits to the students, Molardrama is an opportunity for dental associations to work with community organizations on an educational activity for National Children`s Dental Health Month.
Lourdes Vasquez, RDH, MS, is an assistant professor at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. Diane Huntley, RDH, PhD, is an associate professor at the university. They can be contacted at (316) 978-3614.
- DeBiase CB; Dental Health Education Theory and Practice. Philadelphia, Lea & Febiger, 1991.
- Warren K; Empowering children through drama. Early Child Development and Care 1993 Vol. 90, pp. 83-97.
- Pinciotti P; Creative Drama and Young Children: The Dramatic Learning Connection. Arts Education in Early Childhood 1993 Vol. 94, No. 6, July/August pp. 24-28.
Dr. Desmond Denton
Actually reads the labels
My uncle is a good man; let`s rescue him
Sheriff Casey Canine
A hero for the free, as in cavity-free
You can put a good spin on candy