The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation furthers it mission to improve the oral health of Illinois residents, particularly children, through its programming. The Foundation brings oral health education and assistance to Illinois children and families in a variety of ways, our Land of Smiles oral health education program that visits schools to give dental care tips and demonstrate proper techniques in an engaging and impactful way to our Dentist by 1, which teaches the importance of early dental visits and how to provide dental care for young children.
Each of our programs reaches students, families, children, dental and health professionals and communities in Illinois. The Foundation’s programs focus on our three core themes:
The Foundation works to increase oral health education and awareness in Illinois through its own programs and its partnerships with other oral health organizations. The Foundation’s programs and partnerships emphasize the importance of good oral health and preventative care and how oral health is connected to overall health. Cavities are the most prevalent childhood disease, but through education and awareness, the Foundation is able to teach children and their caregivers good oral health habits, helping to create a healthier community.
We partner with and provide support to Illinois organizations and programs that help expand access to oral health care. Through these organizations, the Foundation is able to provide preventative treatment and restorative care to underserved children who may be suffering from tooth decay. These organizations are crucial to addressing the prevalence of dental disease among Illinois children, and through their efforts, we are able to improve the oral health of children as well as their overall health.
As a way to meet oral health care needs in the state, the Foundation provides educational opportunities for dental and medical professionals. We offer continuing education courses through our “Dentist By 1” program, which teaches the importance of early dental visits and how to provide dental care for young children. The Foundation also supports organizations that have a focus on expanding oral health education, including programs that instruct dentists how to best treat patients with special needs.
Land of Smiles is a free and engaging children’s educational program teaches students in pre-kindergarten through third grade the importance of good oral health habits. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, and more than half of Illinois third graders have had at least one cavity. To help combat the prevalence of tooth decay among Illinois children, “Land of Smiles” travels throughout the state, reaching more than 30,000 children each year.
During the interactive show, the Tooth Wizard and PlaqueMan characters explain good oral health care techniques, good and bad foods for the teeth, and why it is important to visit the dentist. To request a Land of Smiles show at your school click here.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child visit the dentist within six months of getting the first tooth – and no later than the first birthday. Despite this recommendation, children in Illinois don’t see their family dentist on average until they are 3 years old. To educate caregivers about the importance of starting oral health habits early and visiting the dentist by age 1, the Foundation launched the “Dentist By 1” statewide public service campaign. As part of the program, parents can take the pledge to take their child to the dentist by age 1 at www.dentistby1.com/illinois. In exchange, they will receive an oral health kit for their child, and the Foundation will donate an oral health kit in their honor to a child in need.
The “Dentist by 1” program also includes training for oral health professionals to help them feel more comfortable treating young patients. In addition, the “Dentist by 1” program includes a one-day community service event where dental professionals provide free exams, cleanings and sealants to young children ages 5 and under. Families who attend the event are provided with oral health education materials and receive referrals for additional care, if needed.
The $100,000 annual Wisdom Tooth Award recognizes an Illinois nonprofit organization that demonstrates a commitment and dedication to improving oral health in the state. The organization must have made a significant impact on improving oral health among Illinois children with a proven effort that provides oral health education and/or access to oral health care in Illinois. This prestigious grant provides recognition as well as financial support, which eases the burden of dental care costs and increases the amount of care these organizations can deliver.
Every year, the Foundation and Delta Dental of Illinois provide more than 250,000 oral health kits to Illinois residents, nonprofit organizations and Delta Dental of Illinois members. The kits include toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste and oral health brochures. We also offer oral health educational materials, such as flyers and posters. Nonprofit organizations serving residents of Illinois can apply to receive oral health kits from the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation. To qualify for an in-kind donation, an organization must serve individuals with limited or no access to oral health resources.
The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation hosts dental lectures in partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry and the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Dental Medicine. Through these partnerships, the Foundation hopes to improve access to dental care by providing educational opportunities for dental students and oral health professionals.