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Colgate’s ‘Bright Smiles Bright Futures’ celebrates 25 years

By Deborah Bailey | 10/21/2016, 6 a.m.
The Bright Smiles, Bright Futures campaign has provided free dental screenings, oral- health education and treatment referrals in urban and ...
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore City Comptroller Joan Pratt, Arlington Middle and Elementary School Principal Emily Hunter, representatives from Colgate Dr. Marsha Butler and Dawna Fields, Ravens Wide Receiver Steve Smith Sr. and Baltimore City Public Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen joined Arlington Elementary/middle School students to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Futures Campaign. Courtesy Photo

— Students and teachers at Arlington Elementary/Middle School joined Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Jr. and Baltimore City Public Health Commissioner Leana Wen and a host of volunteers and friends at the school on Monday, October 3, 2016, to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Colgate-Palmolive Companies’ Bright Smiles – Bright Futures campaign.

“We have made great strides in raising awareness about the importance of oral care and encouraging families to take their children to the dentist and establish good dental habits,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake during the kick-off to the morning’s activities.

According to the Baltimore Health Department’s Health Disparities Report Card, almost one third of families earning less than $15,000 have gone two or more years without visiting the dentist. Close to 50 percent of Baltimore families earning between $15,000 and $24,000 skip the annual visit to the dentist’s chair.

“Educating children about proper oral hygiene health habits and helping underserved communities is at the heart of the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program, said Dr. Marsha Butler, Colgate’s Vice President for Global Oral Health.

The 200 Arlington Elementary/Middle school children involved in the event were treated to free dental screenings and an outdoor arcade of fun oral health games to get them involved in being advocates for their own health care.

Other representatives from the Mayor’s Office and Colgate, including Dr. Leana Wen, spoke to students during classes about the importance of oral health. Dr. Wen asked students if they had ever experienced a toothache and as the students nodded and raised their hands, she explained the connection between oral health and school success.

“When it’s really painful, it is difficult to focus in the classroom or do our work, right?” she said to the children.

The Bright Smiles, Bright Futures campaign has provided free dental screenings, oral- health education and treatment referrals in urban and rural communities across the United States since 1991. Baltimore is one of the 1000 cities and towns across America that is treated to the free screenings. A fleet of nine fully equipped dental vans reaching millions of children. The program’s award winning in-school curriculum is used worldwide.

“So many of our students miss days because of health related issues,” said Emily Hunter Principal of Arlington Elementary/Middle School, who was grateful for the focus on health at her school.

Hunter pointed out that the day was well spent because her students learned the connection between oral health and health concerns throughout the body.

Dental care remains the greatest unmet health need among children in the United States, according to American Pediatric Association. Low-income children are almost twice as likely to develop cavities as middle-class and wealthy children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are grateful for the support that the Colgate mobile van has provided in helping us dive home the importance of this issue,” said Rawlings-Blake.