The L.A. Trust and L.A. Unified put focus on student oral health

Program Manager Esther Yepez, Executive Director Maryjane Puffer and Associate Program Director Stella Kim distributed hundreds of free toothbrushes at Los Angeles Unified’s Grab & Go Food Center at Manual Arts Senior High School June 9. 


The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health has joined forces with America’s Tooth Fairy, the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Unified School District to raise oral health awareness and distribute more than 50,000 toothbrushes at Los Angeles Unified 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.”

L.A. Tooth Fairy Maryjane Puffer, executive director of The L.A. Trust, thanked Los Angeles Unified and sponsors of Operation Tooth Fairy, including America’s Tooth Fairy and USC. “We even got an anonymous donation of 1,500 wrapped toothbrushes – every little bit helps.”

Puffer noted 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.

Since 2013, The L.A. Trust has worked to improve student oral health by coordinating free Kindergarten Oral Health Assessments in Los Angeles Unified schools.

Puffer said replacing toothbrushes frequently and not sharing brushes is especially important during this pandemic. Children should floss daily and brush twice a day. They should also keep wearing their braces and dental appliances.

Many dentists and dental clinics are re-opening, and you should always see a dentist if it’s an emergency,” Puffer said. This includes oral pain, infection, trauma or damage. Many Student Health and Wellness Centers are open for restorative care, and you can also ask if your dentist offers tele-dentistry to get a remote assessment.  

Thanks from Board

School Board members thanked The L.A. Trust for supporting students while school facilities are closed.

“I am grateful to The L.A. Trust for helping us fulfill our commitment to support the whole child,” Board Vice President Jackie Goldberg said.

“I salute The L.A. Trust and their continued commitment to promoting and educating our children on the importance of oral health,” Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III said.

“Thanks to The L.A. Trust, America’s Tooth Fairy and the University of Southern California for your partnership and support for our students and families,” Board Member Mónica García said. “The health of our students is a strong indicator of their ability to achieve academically. I am grateful for all those involved in the effort to bridge the gap between education and health.”

“As a retired teacher and principal, I know that our children’s health and wellbeing are critical for effective teaching and learning,” Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said. “Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many parents have lost jobs and cannot afford to buy the necessary supplies or pay for dental treatments. Now more than ever, we must continue to provide needed support so our students can remain healthy. I thank The L.A. Trust and our community partners for their generous contributions and continued support.”

“We are grateful to The L.A. Trust and all the partners working to mitigate the unfortunate side effects of our current public health crisis and the existing crises that our kids face every day by not having adequate access to basic health care,” Board Member Nick Melvoin said. “That’s why I brought, and the Board passed, a resolution earlier this year to make it easier for partners like The L.A. Trust to provide these basic health services to our students, and why it’s so important that we uphold this commitment to meet the needs of our kids and families.”

“Along with our partner, The L.A. Trust, we are dedicated to promoting our students’ health,” Board Member Kelly Gonez said. “This latest distribution of toothbrushes at our Grab & Go Food Centers will support student wellbeing and allow them to focus on their learning.”

Puffer thanked the School Board, Los Angeles Unified and Operation Tooth Fairy partners, and urged other organizations and individual to join the effort. She said Operation Tooth Fairy is seeking donations of wrapped children’s and adult toothbrushes plus items like toothpaste and dental floss. “These may seem like small things,” she said, “but they can make a big difference in the oral health of a child or adolescent in this quarantine and recession.”

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