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UTSD Partners with America’s ToothFairy

Friday, June 28, 2013 - 4:12pm

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UT School of Dentistry at Houston is one of only two affiliates in Texas of the National Children's Oral Health Foundation.

The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston’s longstanding outreach to promote dental health among disadvantaged youth received another boost recently when the school was designated an official affiliate of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation

In March, UTSD joined an affiliate network of dental schools, clinics and nonprofits across the nation that share the foundation’s commitment to end tooth decay and dental disease among children. The school is one of only two NCOHF affiliates in Texas.

“Our affiliation will enhance and expand our community outreach efforts and also establishes a partnership with a growing and vibrant foundation,” said Ana Neumann, DDS, MPH, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of General Practice and Dental Public Health. 

Neumann and Margo Melchor, RDH, MEd, clinical assistant professor and UTSD’s director of community outreach, worked to secure the collaboration with the foundation. The support of Dean John Valenza, DDS, was also vital in getting the designation, Neumann added. 

The NCOHF, also formally known as America’s ToothFairy, is a nonprofit organization that promotes oral health education, screenings and treatments for underserved children. As an affiliate, UTSD will receive oral hygiene educational materials, occasional donations of dental products, and will also be eligible to apply for grant funding from the foundation.

The school has already received educational kits that include instructional DVDs, illustrative props and interactive games that faculty and students can use during presentations to children. Spanish-language materials are included as well, such as a vivid photo book showing sobering images of decayed teeth.

The materials were first used in May during the LifePrint Child Safety Event hosted at UTSD, and the

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UTSD students used the NCOHF teaching materials at a recent child safety event at the school. Photo by Rhonda Whitmeyer

children found the oral health lessons fun and engaging, Neumann said. The lessons will also come in handy in the fall, she added, when she takes her first-year dental students to local elementary schools to give oral health presentations as part of the Prevention of Oral Diseases course.

In addition to the educational kits, the foundation has donated fissure sealant materials to be used in community outreach events, Neumann said.  

Another benefit of the partnership will be attending the foundation’s annual oral health summit, where representatives of NCOHF affiliates work to develop innovative educational and prevention strategies, Neumann said. 

The collaboration with the foundation builds on UTSD’s ongoing commitment to reaching disadvantaged children, including the Ronald McDonald CareMobile program and the annual Give Kids a Smile Day, the most recent of which in February provided free dental care to almost 150 low-income youngsters.