Oh’Pal, the Toothbrush that Teaches, made its debut on Amazon! Thank you Christine, Diego and everyone at Park City Television for featuring TeethFirst’s Oh’Pal on your Mountain Morning Show. Thank you for giving me the opportunity of sharing with a broader audience.

At TeethFirst we believe in a cavity-free future. We have been working to make that vision become reality with many community stakeholders since January 2015. Together we weave oral health into the fabric of communities and school systems. We make good oral health more inclusive and accessible to all children, rich or poor, insured or not, with programs in elementary schools. Like teaching a man to fish feeds him for a lifetime, we share our pearls of oral health wisdom with children and we teach them the oral hygiene practices that support good oral health for life.

Vision and Mission

Our vision for a cavity-free future informs our twin missions of 1- Empowering Children to Good Oral Health for Life with daily doses of oral health knowledge and oral hygiene practices at school. 2- Making Oral Hygiene as Accessible as Hand Hygiene for everyone. Oh’Pal, the Toothbrush that Teaches, is the little engine that drives both missions.

Needs

In order to achieve their full potential socially, cognitively and emotionally, children need to be free of tooth decay. To be free of tooth decay, children need to learn about essential oral health and oral hygiene practices1.

The key findings 2015-16 in the report on the Oral Health Status of Utah’s Children2 showed that nearly one in five (19%) children had untreated tooth decay. Almost two in three children (66%), ages 6 to 9 years old, in first to fourth grade, had experienced tooth decay. A significant increase over the reported 52% of the previous survey conducted in 2010. 

In  2017TeethFirst conducted Oral health and oral hygiene skills assessments of close to 300 5 year old children in Summit, Wasatch and Utah Counties . The collected data indicates that 22% of 5 year olds had untreated tooth decay and 46% had current or past experience of tooth decay, almost double the Nation’s average of 24%.

Targeted beneficiaries

Oh'Pal, the Toothbrush that Teaches in a Kindergarten ClassroomAlthough it is almost totally preventable, tooth decay is the number one childhood disease in the Nation3. The number one user of operating room time in children’s hospitals is dentistry under general anesthesia4. Targeting tooth decay in Kindergarten classrooms makes sense because:

All children should benefit from parental help in brushing and flossing their teeth until age 6, sometimes, 85.

Most parents do not provide this assistance to their children5.

Most children in Kindergarten have enough dexterity to brush and floss on their own when given the proper tools like Oh’Pal, the Toothbrush that Teaches.

At age 5, children are about to experience an important transition in their lives: the emergence of their first permanent teeth. If we are going to prevent tooth decay from affecting their permanent teeth, it makes sense to equip 5 year old children with the tools they need to do so.

Our society has locked oral hygiene in the home bathroom, which, given our statistics on oral health, is not serving us well. However, it is difficult to change the ingrained behavior of adults or even older children. Five year old children, on the other hand, are more malleable and therefore don’t resist the idea of flossing and brushing in a public space or in the presence of others.  

The skills assessments we conducted in 2017 showed that only 3% of 5 year olds brush correctly all of their teeth and 0% (none) of them floss correctly.

The plaque and gingival inflammation indexes indicate that the children do not benefit from the parental guidance they need. (Less than 4% of the children we examined had no plaque and no gingival inflammation).

Oh’Pal, the Toothbrush that Teaches

TeethFirst discovered in 2015 that many teachers have serious concerns about the oral health of their pupils. They know the significant impact oral disease has on the student-education process. These teachers inspired TeethFirst to forge ahead and reach out to other stakeholders in the community. In co-operative inquiry fashion6, we developed a method and an instrument, Oh’Pal, that make oral hygiene in the classroom simple and mess-free.    

Oh'Pal, the Toothbrush that Teaches

In the spring of 2017, in a collaborative process with teachers, we added a companion to Oh’Pal, the Toothbrush that Teaches: a curriculum for the integration of oral health education in elementary schools. This curriculum connects teeth and oral health to all elements of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and art. It also correlates to all essential standards of learning  of the Utah Core Standards. This effort is supported by a Park City Community Foundation Grant.

In January 2018, as a result of this initiative, we embarked in a collaborative project with the STEM Action Center.  

We are currently piloting the first iteration of the above mentioned curriculum in 3 Kindergarten classrooms at McPolin Elementary. With input from the teachers and from observing the children we adjust experiments and exercises as we go.

During the preceding academic year, we adjusted the brushing and flossing techniques to make them more effective in the hands of 5 year old children. The children now brush by quadrant, 30 seconds per quadrant. Oh’Pal teaches better now.

Oh’Pal Teaches and Gives Back

TeethFirst gives back a portion of all sales into school programs. The more school programs we launch, the more affordable school programs become.

Join the Revolution!

TeethFirst offers a new model of strategic philanthropy in oral health care led by dentists. You too can take a bite out of tooth decay by sponsoring a supervised flossing and brushing program for a classroom or a whole school. 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. With Oh’Pal, the toothbrush that teaches, you too can empower kids with knowledge & practices for a cavity-free future. There is no better way to market your practice or your business.

References

  1. Impact of Poor Oral Health on Children’s School Attendance and Performance; Stephanie L. Jackson, DDS, MS, William F. Vann, Jr, DMD, PhD, Jonathan B. Kotch, MD, MPH, Bhavna T. Pahel, PhD, MPH, BDS, and Jessica Y. Lee, DDS, PhD, MPH; Am J Public Health. 2011 October; 101(10): 1900–1906.
  2. Utah Department of Health, Division of Family Health and Preparedness, OralHealth Program and Data Resources Program. The 2015-2016 Oral Health Status of Utah’s Children. November 2016.
  3. National Institute of Crania Facial Research, Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/FindDataByTopic/DentalCaries/  
  4. Canadian Institute for Health Information. “Treatment of Preventable Dental Cavities in Preschoolers: A Focus on Day Surgery Under General Anesthesia”. Ottawa, ON: CIHI; 2013
  5. Parents’ Experiences of Toothbrushing with Children: A Qualitative Study; Z. Marshman, S.M. Ahern, R.R.C. McEachan, H.J. Rogers,  K.A. Gray-Burrows, and P.F. Day; JDR Clin Trans Res. 2016 Jul; 1(2): 122–130.
  6. Co-operative Inquiry as a Discipline of Professional Practice; Reason P.; Journal of Interprofessional Care 12(4), 419-436
  7. A clinical investigation into the effect of toothbrush wear on efficacy; Warren PR1, Jacobs D, Low MA, Chater BV, King DW.; J Clin Dent. 2002;13(3):119-24.
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