Jason Aragon, a five-year-old from Sioux City, doesn’t head for the snack drawer or settle in front of the TV. Before he does anything else, Jason rushes to the sink to brush his teeth with his very own toothbrush. He enthusiastically brushes at bedtime, too, and again when he wakes up every morning.
The toothbrush isn’t really anything special – it’s blue and white, just his size, and has fun designs on it. But he loves the toothbrush so much because it’s his. He got it at school, in his Head Start classroom in Sioux City. His teacher, Leigh Turner, knows it’s about more than a toothbrush. “It’s about independence,” she said. “Kids feel special when they have something of their own, something that helps them take care of themselves. It was an exciting day when there were brand-new toothbrushes in everybody’s cubbies.” The importance of daily brushing is talked about every day in school, Leigh said. “It’s really pretty simple. We just make a point to talk about it as part of our routine.”
Because of a partnership among Head Start, the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, and the Siouxland Community Health Center, Jason and his classmates receive toothbrushes, instruction on dental care, and access to dentists in the area. Kids also have “school toothbrushes” for use during the school day.
“Delta Dental of Iowa has committed nearly $20 million to support our Foundation that funds programs across the state to increase access to critical dental health care information and resources,” said Jeff Russell, CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa. “The real impact can be seen in stories like Jason’s – a story we’re pleased to share with his friends and neighbors in Northwest Iowa.”
Making oral health care a topic of regular conversation is a priority of Jason’s parents, too. “In our family, we talk a lot about how important it is to earn things we need and things we want,” said Jason’s dad, Mario. “And even though everyone in his class got a toothbrush, he feels proud that he’s responsible enough to have something of his own.”
Jason has been going to the dentist since his first teeth came in when he was eight months old, thanks to the recommendation the received during a home visit to the family. Dental care is very important to Jason’s parents, Mario and Emma.
“We often use their mom as an example of why it’s so important to go to the dentist,” Mario said. “She just lost a tooth as an adult, and we don’t want our kids to have the same problems we have.”
Because of his brushing habits and his regular dental care, Jason has a lot of confidence when visiting the dentist. “The dentist does a really good job of making the kids feel comfortable,” Mario said. “Jason goes back for his checkups by himself now, and he doesn’t even hesitate.”
The pride Jason has in his smile is obvious every day, including during the phone conversation we had with his teacher, Leigh. “Right now, as we’re talking, he’s just peeking in the window, waving and smiling at me,” she said. “He’s a great kid.”
**Special thanks to Delta Dental of Iowa for providing picture and article content
Delta Dental of Iowa is the largest and most experienced provider of dental benefits in the state. As a not-for-profit, Delta Dental of Iowa invests in oral health projects through the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation that focus on access to care, prevention, education and research. Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation’s mission is to support and improve the oral health of Iowans.