Los Angeles Unified students will receive more than 50,000 toothbrushes through an oral health initiative called Operation Tooth Fairy, district officials announced Tuesday.
LAUSD partnered with the Los Angeles Trust for Children's Health to raise oral health awareness and distribute the toothbrushes while schools remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The brushes will be given out at Grab & Go Food Centers.
"Healthy children are ready to learn, and The L.A. Trust has worked with us for years to promote the health and wellbeing of our students," Superintendent Austin Beutner said. "Children may find it difficult to visit a dentist, so making sure kids practice good oral health habits like brushing their teeth is more important now than ever."
Maryjane "Tooth Fairy" Puffer, executive director of The L.A. Trust, thanked Los Angeles Unified and the sponsors of Operation Tooth Fairy, including America's Tooth Fairy and the University of Southern California. She pointed out that children with poor oral health are nearly three times more likely to miss school and perform poorly.
"Past screenings of elementary school students in Los Angeles found that 66% of children had active dental disease, 27% had visible tooth decay and 6% required emergency care," Puffer said.
The LA Trust, founded in 1991, has long worked to improve student oral health, and the organization has coordinated free Kindergarten Oral Health Assessments in Los Angeles Unified schools since 2013.
While children are out of school due to the pandemic, Puffer said replacing toothbrushes frequently and not sharing brushes remains important. Children should floss daily and brush twice a day. They should also keep wearing their braces and dental appliances.
Local news from across Southern California
"You can see a dentist if it's an emergency,'' Puffer said about how stay-at-home orders are impacting access to dental care. ``This includes oral pain, infection, trauma or damage. You can also ask if your dentist offers tele-dentistry to get a remote assessment."
LAUSD board members thanked The L.A. Trust for promoting oral health, especially since schools have been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic and no reopening dates have been set.
"Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many parents have lost jobs and cannot afford to buy the necessary supplies or pay for dental treatments," board member Scott M. Schmerelson said. "Now more than ever, we must continue to provide needed support so our students can remain healthy."
For more information, visit thelatrust.org.