Delta Dental expands dental health ASL program

Jennifer E. Engen

The Tooth Fairy Experience  is expanding its American Sign Language (ASL) program in which the program’s first male Tooth Fairy – who is a certified American Sign Language interpreter and licensed occupational therapist – presents to students. Launching this April, ASL presentations will be available across the state.

April 15th marks National American Sign Language Day after the first lasting school for the deaf in the United States opened on April 15th, 1817. 205 years later, Delta Dental of Washington is launching its ASL program to educate deaf and hard of hearing children on dental health.

The ASL presentation began with a visit to the Washington School for the Deaf in Vancouver, WA last December, when the program was in its piloting stage. After garnering positive feedback, the presentation will now be a staple in the Tooth Fairy Experience’s repertoire.   

With the addition of ASL presentations, the program, presented free by Delta Dental of Washington, will soon be available for deaf and hard of hearing K-2 students statewide. The ASL interpreter Tooth Fairy joins the program’s growing team of diverse tooth fairies available to meet the needs and preferences for the communities visited.

From its launch in 2019, as part of Delta Dental’s vision for a cavity-free Washington, the program aims to improve dental health habits at an early age, reduce the incidence of tooth decay, and increase the number of kids who regularly visit the dentist. 

Currently, more than half of the state’s third graders have experienced tooth decay, and according to Delta Dental’s 2016 National Children’s Oral Health Survey, 30 percent of U.S. parents reported that their children (between the ages of six and 12) missed school in the previous year due to an oral health problem (as opposed to a regularly scheduled dental appointment). Nationally, one out of every 2,045 students are deaf, and one out of 980 are hard of hearing.

According to Delta Dental, children who experience tooth decay are more likely to miss school, have lower academic success, and have an increased risk for lifelong dental problems. Over time poor oral health can increase systemic inflammation which may limit growth and development, as well as increase the risk of adverse health outcomes including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Each Tooth Fairy Experience presentation – offered both in-person and virtually – lasts approximately 30 minutes and provides valuable knowledge about how kids can take better care of their smiles. The presentations, led by the Tooth Fairy, include fun smile facts, a dental-themed storybook reading (also offered via a free downloadable video with ASL interpretation), and hands-on educational activities focused on healthy brushing and flossing habits, the importance of young teeth, good nutrition, and healthy lifestyles. Each child also receives a free dental health kit (including toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, lip balm, and a two-minute timer to help kids remember to brush for two minutes twice daily) and a copy of the Tooth Fairy storybook.

The Tooth Fairy Experience was developed by Delta Dental of Washington in partnership with Arcora Foundation, School Nurse Organization of Washington, and Washington State Dental Association – and is endorsed by the Washington Homeschool Organization. All materials have been dentist, teacher, school nurse, and child reviewed.

For parents looking for fun ways to teach kids about caring for their smiles, The Tooth Fairy Experience website (www.TheToothFairyExperience.com) provides helpful year-round resources including a dental tips blog, child dental health activity sheets for home use, a quarterly Grin & Grow e-newsletter, Tooth Fairy letters for children, Tooth Fairy hotline with pre-recorded messages, and links to Delta Dental of Washington resources such as help in finding a dentist. In addition, parents can follow the Tooth Fairy team on their own Facebook and Instagram channels (@ToothFairyWA).

About Delta Dental of Washington

Delta Dental of Washington is the state’s leading dental benefit provider, covering nearly 3 million people in Washington State and nationally. As the only not-for-profit carrier dedicated to improving oral health in Washington, Delta Dental plays a vital role extending access to care for the underserved and vulnerable populations by funding the Arcora Foundation, as well as through corporate philanthropy and oral health advocacy – to ensure all people enjoy good oral health and overall health. For more information, visit: www.deltadentalwa.com.

Delta Dental expands dental health ASL program

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