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GKAS/NASCAR event revs up schoolchildren

Community partners help set the pace for better oral, overall health


Smile!: A class from Troth Street Elementary poses for a commemorative shot with 3M mascot Pit Bull and Greg Biffle's No. 16 3M Ford Fusion show car during the event.
Jurupa Valley, Calif.—Racy cars and healthy smiles hit the fast track at Troth Elementary School March 21, as the Give Kids A Smile/NASCAR oral health education campaign drove its message home to about 950 schoolchildren.

Only 10 miles from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, the school event was held in conjunction with NASCAR's Auto Club 400 race March 24. Troth Elementary Principal Jose Campos said that children and teachers alike enjoyed the unique event.

"The GKAS/NASCAR event was an extraordinary event that not only highlighted the message of good oral health but also reinforced overall good health," said Mr. Campos, principal. "At Troth Street we have for two years worked on an initiative, Healthy Bodies/Healthy Minds, and our partnership with the Riverside Community Health Foundation has reinforced this initiative across the city. Oral health is reinforced every year with the foundation and is critical to good health.  The event served as a reminder to our students and community of how important oral health is and how easy it is to achieve. Students were thrilled and in awe of this spectacular event and will always remember to brush two minutes, twice a day!"

A Title 1 school some 50 miles east of Los Angeles, about 90 percent of Troth Elementary School's students qualify for free/reduced lunch and 94 percent are Hispanic. The community health initiative resulted in constructing a brand new track that children walk or run on during daily physical education classes to providing education about the importance of healthy diet and good habits, said Dr. Ernest Garcia, a Marysville, Calif., dentist, board member of Oral Health America and GKAS National Advisory Committee member. Dr. Garcia was on hand to help provide oral health education at the GKAS/NASCAR event.

"I have never seen kids so excited as when they revved up the engine of the race car (a show car replica of NASCAR driver Greg Biffle's No. 16 3M Ford Fusion). The kids went crazy. Each class even had their picture taken with the car during the event."

Dr. Garcia said he was proud to see Jurupa Valley Mayor Verne Lauritzen, city council members and the school superintendent join the ADA, Oral Health America, Riverside Community Health Foundation, the Tri-County Dental Society and GKAS/NASCAR sponsors in supporting and attending the event.

"Everyone who spoke had an oral health message," Dr. Garcia said. "Even Mayor Lauritzen talked about the importance of brushing, flossing and dental visits. It was an awesome day."

In keeping with the school's mission to emphasize good health, most students had received dental screenings prior to the event and about 140 students received dental sealants through the Riverside Community health Foundation's Miles of Smiles program during the event.

RCHF Vice President Ninfa Delgado said that although Troth Street is located in an underserved area and has limited resources, the staff has done "an amazing job incorporating health into its school culture, recognizing the important role it plays in a child's academic success.

"The event was such an exciting way to reinforce the message of health Troth Street and our Miles of Smiles program provides to students, as well as a tremendous way to inspire students and parents to recognize the important role oral health plays in overall health," said Ms. Delgado. "In addition, Jurupa Valley is a newly incorporated city, only about a year old, so the community was excited to have a national event highlight the efforts of the city and schools. I don't think it's a day any of us will forget soon."

NASCAR's Greg Biffle was thrilled that the program was able to reach so many children in one morning.

"It's important for kids to learn about the importance of good oral health at a young age," said Mr. Biffle. "Knowing we can help make a positive impact is really exciting for me. Kids sometimes need more education and positive reinforcement to have and maintain good dental health. And bringing a NASCAR show car—it's an easy way to reach a kid's heart. Bringing a race car helps get their full and undivided attention!"

Volunteers from Tri-County Dental Society, a component that supports dentists in Riverside, San Bernardino and East Los Angeles counties, were also on hand for the event.

"It was exciting to see how most of the children are well aware of oral health care and the importance of it," said Monica Chavez, GKAS/community outreach coordinator for the Tri-County Dental Society. "Most, if not all the students knew how many times they needed to brush and for how long. They knew what was good for them to eat and what was not. If we keep on educating children especially at this age, then one can only hope that when they reach adulthood, they'll have good oral health and will pass this education down to their children."

Mr. Biffle feels part of his role as a GKAS spokesman and advocate is also to encourage adults to be good role models for the children in their lives.

"I have a daughter and I know how important good oral health is for children," Mr. Biffle said. "I think you look at good oral health in a different way when you're a parent and realize how important it is. You want to make an impact on your own child when she's young. Everything kids learn, good or bad, they learn from parents or other adults so you have to be a good role model. We need more positive role models in this country. I feel I can reach a lot of kids whose dental health may have been overlooked or those whose parents just didn't understand what or how to teach them, and give them a positive message about how important it is. Hearing the information from someone other than a parent may help, too."

Mr. Biffle said his daughter Emma, age 2, already loves to brush her teeth.

"It's a good thing. She really loves brushing," he said. "My wife has a power brush and Emma thinks that's really cool. She even hums while she brushes her teeth. She is learning by example."

GKAS/NASCAR sponsors include the ADA and ADA Foundation, Henry Schein Cares, CareCredit and 3M ESPE Dental. In 2011, they joined forces with Greg Biffle and 3M Racing to take the Give Kids A Smile program to the NASCAR audience. The program expanded with additional events in 2012, and based on the success of the effort, will reach 600,000 individuals with oral health messages in 2013. See the list of events online at ada.org/news/8301.aspx.

"For more than 25 years, CareCredit has given patients new and innovative ways to access the care they want, so they can take care of themselves and their families and enjoy life more. CareCredit is pleased to support the GKAS/NASCAR education event at Troth Elementary and provide fun and entertaining oral health education to more than 900 children."

Watch the ADA News for future coverage, visit the GKAS Facebook page (facebook.com/GiveKidsASmile) or follow GKAS on Twitter at #gkas or #givekidsasmile.