Flossing and Brushing in the Classroom

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and I, Dr. Marielle Pariseau, a retired dentist from Canada now living in Utah, have chosen to celebrate this special month in a unique way. On January 30th, I launched a 30day Kickstarter Campaign to promote Oh’Pal, a waterless toothbrush I invented to take a bite out of tooth decay. Before we go any further, let’s address the funny name. Here is what Oh’Pal means: O is for Oral and H is for Health. Pal, by definition is a very close, intimate friend; an accomplice. So there you have it. Oh’Pal is the disposable toothbrush with a social purpose about to become your oral health’s Best Friend Forever! Oh’Pal was inspired by Kindergartners and designed to support flossing and brushing in the classroom… and for adults on the go too!

Kids flossing and brushing with Oh'Pal in the classroomThe goal of the Kickstarter Campaign is to raise $40,000.00 to support the launch of Supervised Flossing and Brushing Programs in all Kindergarten classrooms across all three School Districts in Summit County. Summit County has the highest percentage of residents without health insurance in all of Utah, which means that more Summit County children than elsewhere in Utah don’t benefit from regular preventive dental visits. But these children all go to school where, working together, we can make a difference. My Campaign dream is to double the $40,000.00 goal as to also include Wasatch County, where I live, and the County with the second highest percentage of residents without health insurance… and then, expand beyond that.

Tooth Decay is Still the #1 Childhood Disease

How this all started stemmed from a lifetime interest in preventive care. Almost all children are born with perfect enamel and all children are born free… free of tooth decay. I believe that our job as individuals, parents, educators and dentists, is to keep them that way. But we are failing. Tooth decay is still the number one disease childhood disease 1,2.The number one user of operating room time in Children’s Hospitals is Dentistry under General Anesthesia 3. This needs to stop.

In the eighties Scotland launched supervised toothbrushing programs in a few schools, programs that have grown across the whole country and are now known as the National Supervised Toothbrushing Program. Over the years, the Scotts have consistently shown that everywhere such programs are in place, the rate of tooth decay goes down 4. More recently, Mexico City made it mandatory to have supervised toothbrushing in its Public Schools 5.

An Entrepreneurial Journey

Seeing the great results of Scotland’s programs, I wondered how flossing could be added, and how this addition could have an even bigger impact. I imagined a special toothbrush with a brush head pre-pasted with Xylitol at one end and a floss tail at the other end of the same handle. A toothbrush specifically designed to make it easy, quick and mess-free to floss and brush in the classroom.

Oh'Pal designed in no ordinary wayMy entrepreneurial journey began in earnest in January 2015, and Oh’Pal was designed in no ordinary way. I enlisted the help of two teams of High School Students in the Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies (PCCAPS). The first team, engineering students, went into rapid prototyping for a solution after researching the problem. The second team, business students, designed and ran surveys in the community. 102 “Pint size” Alpha and Beta testers, Kindergartners from McPolin Elementary, helped inform the design during the rapid prototyping phase of the project. Treasure Mountain Junior High School Leadership students raised awareness to the importance of flossing for good oral health. Recycle Utah guided me and my PCCAPS Team into making this disposable toothbrush earth-friendly.

Investing in Prevention will save money

Supervised flossing and brushing programs will make a difference. Too many kids do not benefit from adult supervision while brushing at home. Because of that, they miss cleaning many critical areas and they also tend to not brush long enough. Most kids do not floss, and the ones who do often do it ineffectively. For some kids, on given days, the classroom flossing and brushing session will be the only oral hygiene they will benefit from that day.

Investing in Supervised Flossing and Brushing Programs will save money. Studies in England have shown savings in dental treatment expenses of up to 2 1/2 times the cost of implementing supervised toothbrushing programs 6. The addition of the flossing component has the capacity to save even more because most tooth decay (and gum disease) starts between teeth. Oh’Pal was designed to make it virtually impossible to forget about flossing and to make it very easy to learn the good habit of flossing every time you brush.

With Oh’Pal, flossing and especially brushing can be done away from your home bathroom. Eliminating the need for a sink and running water makes oral hygiene in the classroom, at work, or on the go not only possible, but also very convenient.

Buy One, Give One

In addition to offering Oh’Pal at a reduced price during the Kickstarter Campaign, my Company, TeethFirst®, will give one Oh’Pal to a school program for every Oh’Pal bought. The more Oh’Pals find their way into homes and schools the more children will benefit from Supervised Flossing and Brushing Programs. My dream is to see programs launched well beyond the three School Districts in Summit 

Sponsoring a Program

I also challenge you, the oral health care providers, to Sponsor a Supervised Flossing and Brushing Program for a classroom or an entire school in your community. I invite you to embrace this as a new model of strategic philanthropy 7 in oral health care led by dentists and hygienists. In joining the revolution, you are promoting your values and your practice, creating a winning situation for all involved. You also make the biggest difference for the children who need it the most.

Visit Oh’Pal, the Disposable Toothbrush with a Social Purpose now! Our goal with this campaign is to fund Supervised Flossing and Brushing in as many Kindergarten classrooms as we can. Reaching our $40,000.00 goal will make it possible to launch Supervised Flossing and Brushing Programs across all Kindergarten Classrooms of Summit County: that’s 3 school districts! And because of our “Buy One Give One” model, reaching our goal will also mean that TeethFirst will place a matching number of Oh’Pals in a special “Oh’Pal School Program Bank”

Together we can take a bite out of tooth decay.

Oh'Pal Buy One Give One for Kids

1- Dye BA, Tan S, Smith V, Lewis BG, Barker LK, Thornton-Evans G, Eke PI, Beltrán-Aguilar ED, Horowitz AM, Li CH. “Trends in oral health status, United States, 1988-1994 and 1999-2004”. Vital Health Stat 11. 2007;(248):1-92.

2- HHS. “Oral health in America: A report of the Surgeon General”–executive summary. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health. 2000.

3- Canadian Institute for Health Information. “Treatment of Preventable Dental Cavities in Preschoolers: A Focus on Day Surgery Under General Anesthesia”. Ottawa, ON: CIHI; 2013.

4- Macpherson, L. M. D., et al. “National Supervised Tooth brushing Program and Dental Decay in Scotland.” Journal of dental research 92.2 (2013): 109-13. Web.

5- O’Keefe J, Director, Edelson J. “Change for the Better: Introducing Mandatory Brushing in Public Schools in Mexico City”. OASIS Discussions 2017.

6- Yulia Anopa, Alex D. McMahon, David I. Conway, Graham E. Ball, Emma McIntosh, and Lorna M. D. Macpherson. “Improving Child Oral Health: Cost Analysis of a National Nursery Toothbrushing Programme”. PLoS One. 2015; 10(8): e0136211.

7- Alvetro L. “Strategic Philanthropy: Giving Back and Gaining Patients”. Viva Learning Interactive Web Based Training 2014, reviewed 2017. 

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