PLAINS TWP. — Healthy eating and healthy smiles go hand-in-hand.
That’s why a program designed to teach area youth about good oral hygiene included dental-care goodies distributed in lunchboxes resembling a wholesome snack.
Second- and third-graders across the Wilkes-Barre Area School District brushed up on their dental hygiene knowledge Thursday with the help of the Benco Family Foundation, a project of Pittston-based Benco Dental.
“Our foundation helps support access to dental care and dental health projects and programs across the country,” said Rebecca Binder, executive director of the Benco Family Foundation. “It’s important because everybody deserves to have access to good, high-quality dental care.”
In partnership with the Maryland-based Children’s Oral Health Institute and dental students from the University of Pennsylvania, Benco screened two “Peanuts” films about proper brushing and flossing techniques, and donated 1,100 lunchboxes with nutritional information.
Those lunchboxes, with information in English, Spanish, and braille, contained a plastic carrot filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and a rinse cup to encourage kids to take care of their teeth and eat foods that are good for oral health.
“We hope that we’re getting kids to think about their teeth at a young age,” Binder added.
Dr. Winifred J. Booker, CEO of The Children’s Oral Health Institute, led the presentation and explained the effectiveness of the lunchboxes.
“When should you brush your teeth? After you eat,” Booker said. “So we take the opportunity to educate them right after they eat when they should brush and floss.”
Reinforcing the connection between nutrition and oral hygiene was a key theme of “Lessons in a Lunchbox.”
“We want them to eat healthy, so we put the dental care in a carrot, which is something that will interest them in brushing and encourage them to brush after meals,” Booker added.
But the message was not only directed at young people.
“As soon as kids get their first two teeth, parents should introduce them to cleaning and brushing teeth,” Booker said. “At least by the age of 6, you want them to have developed some independence in terms of brushing and flossing, and that’s why we created this program.”
Local educators expressed optimism the effort will have a lasting impact on the young audience.
“I thought this was a wonderful program that taught students the importance of dental health, but in a fun and creative way,” said Sean Flynn, principal of Solomon Plains Elementary School.
“I think it’s a benefit not only now in their early lives, making sure that they have proper dental habits, but moving forward in their lives, it’s going to be even better as they get older,” Flynn said.