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Girl Scouts from Troop 90115 in Bristow, Va., carry their Smile Drive collection. The girls donated 1,200 dental hygiene products to Haymarket Regional Food Pantry in Gainesville, Va. (Photo: America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation)

Smile Drive campaign provides hygiene products to kids

By Dental Tribune USA
September 08, 2021

Although they’re preventable, cavities are the leading chronic childhood disease in America. Many low-income families lack basic dental hygiene products in their homes. When kids can’t brush every day to keep their smiles healthy, the pain of tooth decay can keep them from eating, sleeping and attending school. Their poor oral hygiene habits contribute to the vicious cycle of poverty.

America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation believes every child should have what they need to prevent tooth decay. Through the organization’s nationwide Smile Drive campaign, volunteers help kids protect their teeth from decay by collecting oral care products for families in need and teaching their communities about the importance of healthy dental hygiene habits.

During the 2021 Smile Drive campaign, which ended June 30, Smile Drive volunteers and corporate partners came through during an exceptionally challenging time. Some highlights:

  • A total of 185,257 dental hygiene products were donated to help struggling families.
  • Generous oral care product donations from SmileMakers, Crest and Oral-B were distributed to 159 charitable organizations through America’s ToothFairy.
  • A total of 857 volunteers collected 34,255 oral care products benefitting an additional 95 nonprofit organizations serving families in need in their own communities.

To date, a total of 254 nonprofit organizations have received dental hygiene products to distribute to the families that need them the most. Remaining items are being delivered to organizations hosting back-to-school events.

Because COVID restrictions varied by state, Smile Drive volunteers held in-person drive-through collections or online campaigns. Some did both.

“I believe every child should have the opportunity to take care of their oral health. If I can provide the tools for preventing oral diseases, I think it's half the battle,” said volunteer Taheya Asad, of Ormond Beach, Fla., who collected 200 toothbrushes and toothpaste and included them in oral health treat bags that also contained brushing charts, a tooth coloring page, crayons and stickers, and donated them to local Head Start programs.

Girl Scout Troop 90115 in Bristow, Va., collected 1,200 items, which they sorted into dental hygiene bags and donated to Haymarket Regional Food Pantry in Gainesville, Va.

“I’ve done food drives with my troops in the past but never this. We feel great about providing such a special need,” troop leader Erin Blankenship reported. “Since our girls are younger, they cannot go to the store and buy, but they could talk about it, and they could help sort materials into bags so that the food pantry can provide a family with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss.”

Volunteers who chose to raise funds online received access to free digital tools to track their donations from family and friends. Jillian Miu of Jericho, N.Y., raised $1,797 during her virtual campaign — enough to donate more than 5,000 toothbrushes to the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in New York City. Jillian got her school’s National Honor Society Chapter involved. “I proposed this idea as a way to give back to our community,” she said. “Most of our events this year were virtual, so this was perfect.”

Corporate sponsors SmileMakers and Crest and Oral-B provided support and product donations.

Next year’s Smile Drive runs through June 30, 2022. Information on how to volunteer or donate to the campaign is available at SmileDrive.org.

(Source: America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation)

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