The 5 Q’s: Stacy Harris discusses free virtual dental program for Missouri schools

Stacy Harris

Q: What challenges has COVID-19 posed for Delta Dental of Missouri?

A: COVID-19 has been a game-changer for most businesses — and the state’s leading dental benefits provider is no exception. It has prompted Delta Dental of Missouri to stretch, innovate and reimagine not only how we continue meeting the changing needs of our clients and members, and help people of all ages access vital dental care, so they can live better lives through improved dental health, but also how we adapt our popular Land of Smiles educational program.

Q: What is the Land of Smiles program?

A: Since 2002, our Land of Smiles program has visited hundreds of elementary schools throughout Missouri each year with a live show that teaches grade-school children good dental health habits.

When COVID-19 hit, our team, like the rest of the nation, wasn’t sure what the 2020-21 school year would look like, so we went to work to develop a virtual experience. We created an engaging, age-appropriate online program featuring a vibrant 30-minute video with brand-new Land of Smiles superhero characters, which can be used for students in the classroom and for those involved in partial or full-time virtual learning.

Q: What does Land of Smiles teach schoolchildren?

A: Our virtual Land of Smiles experience follows dynamic superhero Captain Super Grin as he defeats his nemesis, Caz Cavity, with a little help from his sidekicks, Terri Tooth Fairy and Toothpick. Throughout the adventure, students learn the importance of brushing teeth twice a day, flossing, eating healthy foods and visiting the dentist regularly.

Delta Dental of Missouri offers free “smile bags” to schools for students who participate in the program. Each bag includes a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss to help students practice the good oral health habits that they learn. Each school is responsible for distributing the bags to participating students who attend school in person or virtually.

Q: How long will Land of Smiles be offered to schools?

A: Our virtual Land of Smiles experience launched the beginning of October, and more than 60 Missouri schools have already signed up to take advantage of the program. We will be following federal, state and county guidelines to determine when it’s safe to resume our in-person Land of Smiles performances at schools. In the meantime, we are encouraging interested schools to register for our virtual offering.

Q: How can schools sign up for the program?

A: Teachers, school nurses and principals can visit www.LandofSmilesProgram.org to preview the free program and request access to it on a date and time that works for their students.

Stacy Harris is the supervisor of community outreach at Delta Dental of Missouri in St. Louis. Delta Dental of Missouri is the state’s leading dental benefits provider and a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization.