The Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation is partnering with the Great Arizona Puppet Theater to make oral health education more accessible and fun for children through the creation of a traveling puppet show that will perform at Title One schools and daycare centers statewide over the next two years. The program will educate nearly 13,000 children through approximately 160 shows each year across Northern, Central, and Southern Arizona.
"Our relationship with the Great Arizona Puppet Theater goes back several years. We have worked with them through our Foundation since 2020 to provide oral health puppet shows at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix each February – Children’s Dental Health Month – so this expands on the age-appropriate, entertaining-yet-educational programming that we have seen engage children for years,” says Barb Kozuh, executive director of the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation.
“Over the years we have greatly appreciated the relationship with Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation. The gift of this relationship is the ability to utilize the arts as tool for effective and creative ways teaching dental health, create laughter and art experiences with these young children that will last a lifetime,” Jeffrey Lazos Ferns, interim executive director of the Great Arizona Puppet Theater.
Each show will be tailored to a specific age range and development level, and "Smile Bags" containing toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and fun facts about dental health will be provided for all children through the partnership as well.
“Tooth decay is the number one chronic disease among children, and studies show that children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t,” says Kozuh. “Tooth decay, and many of its associated issues including infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning, is nearly 100% preventable through proper care,” says Kozuh. “We want to empower children across Arizona to understand the importance of taking care of their teeth and to take an active role in their oral health throughout their lives.”
This is one of many programs to educate children about the importance of oral health championed by Delta Dental of Arizona and its Foundation. In 2022 alone and in addition to the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation grant program, which awarded more than $750,000 to support projects and services promoting good oral health practices and increasing access to dental care among underserved children, pregnant women and seniors, Delta Dental of Arizona partnered with Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH) to release of the “Mouth-Healthy Cookbook.” The free cookbook made in collaboration with nutritionists and oral health experts features nearly two dozen easy-to-make recipes that promote whole-person health for the entire family. The book, available in English and Spanish, includes kid-friendly instructions for many of the recipes to encourage time in the kitchen together. Also in 2022, the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation began a partnership with Arizona PBS on an educational outreach program to promote good oral health to children in rural communities across the state. The statewide campaign boosts family involvement in good oral health practices, focusing on the importance of brushing twice a day, changing toothbrushes regularly and visiting the dentist twice a year.
“We have also partnered with the Children’s Museum of Phoenix since 2008 to bring oral health programming to the Museum for the month of February. Through this partnership, which will kick off again on February 1, the Museum will host interactive activities, shows including The Great Arizona Puppet Theater, and educational information all related to the mouth, teeth, and oral health all month long,” says Kozuh. “All of the oral health programming and activities are free with paid Museum admission. Children under the age of 1 are free as are members of the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.”
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