Aug. 1, 2012



National Children's Oral Health Foundation: America's ToothFairy (NCOHF) was created in 2006 to focus solely on a collaborative and comprehensive approach to eliminating the devastating epidemic of children's dental disease. Through community-based, innovative programs, NCOHF delivers critical educational, preventive, and treatment services to children of our most vulnerable populations. The Esther Wilkins International Education Program (EWIEP) is one of these vital programs. Founded with a leadership contribution from Esther Wilkins, RDH, DMD, a revered and internationally recognized icon in oral health, this program was created especially for dental hygienists.

Chaired by Michele Darby, BSDH, MS, Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, Anna Pattison, RDH, MS, and Rebecca Wilder, RDH, MS, the Esther Wilkins International Education Program provides dental hygiene programs and volunteer dental hygienists with community education kits to promote good oral health practices among children, parents, and caregivers. Each NCOHF Preventive Education Kit is provided at no charge for volunteers and dental hygiene programs, and contains lesson materials reflecting basic preventive strategies and nutrition appropriate for prenatal through young adult learning levels.

Although the program was started just over a year ago, volunteer dental hygienists and dental hygiene students are already reaching thousands of children with critical oral health education. One of those volunteers is Nancy Brohawn, RDH. She has 40 years of clinical dental hygiene experience and has put thousands of patients on the road to improved dental health in her home state of Delaware. She has always spent much of her free time volunteering in some capacity, but this program gives her a unique opportunity to share her expertise with children in her community. Nancy has used the NCOHF Preventive Education Kit she received through the program to conduct educational presentations at a health fair and in local schools.

Understanding the growing need for children's oral health services, Nancy had this to share about NCOHF, "There are limited resources for dental care for the uninsured and the underinsured. No one group can undertake this large task. That is why the efforts of National Children's Oral Health Foundation to increase awareness of the importance of oral health and fight the No. 1 chronic childhood illness, tooth decay, are so important."

Through the Esther Wilkins International Education Program, dental hygiene professionals like Nancy can take the lead in breaking the vicious cycle of pediatric dental disease by providing children and their caregivers with the knowledge they need to maintain beautiful, healthy smiles for a lifetime.

With the majority of U.S. dental hygiene programs participating in this rapidly growing program, dental hygiene students are using the Esther Wilkins International Education Program materials to educate children in their communities about proper toothbrushing techniques, healthy snack choices, and germ transmission.

Mallorie Blankenship, a student of the Remington College Dental Hygiene Program in Nashville, Tenn., was thrilled to discover the variety of lessons and the content covered in the NCOHF Preventive Education Kit. "With the help of the NCOHF Preventive Education Kit, I was able to provide them with important health information on an assortment of topics. I felt the children and teachers walked away with more knowledge and a better understanding of the importance of caring for their teeth!" said Mallorie after her presentation. She shared the lessons with children at a local preschool and her presentation was a huge success! With each lesson encouraging their involvement, the children in the class enjoyed the lessons so much that the director of the preschool asked her to return to teach the other children. The children loved the fun magnetic board that illustrates healthy food choices, and they were fascinated with the giant toothbrush used to help demonstrate proper toothbrushing techniques. Mallorie commented, "They loved the giant toothbrush. When it was time for them to practice brushing their teeth, EVERYONE wanted to hold that toothbrush!"

It appears that the dental hygiene students are enjoying their volunteer experiences through the Esther Wilkins International Education Program as much as the children. "As word spreads about how much our students enjoy volunteering for the program, our NCOHF Preventive Education Kit is in high demand!" remarked Ann Dickinson, RDH, MS, dental hygiene program administrator at Remington College.

Volunteer dental hygienists now reach thousands of children through this smile-saving program. However, without the knowledge they need to prevent tooth decay, many more children still face a future filled with the pain and shame associated with oral disease. You can make a difference for the children in your community through this innovative program. Join today at www.AmericasToothFairy.org to receive the NCOHF Preventive Education Kit and provide children in your community with essential oral health education. Invite your fellow colleagues to join you, and start a community chapter of smile-saving dental hygienists dedicated to ensuring all children have the healthy smiles they deserve!