Local organization raises awareness of dental health through a World Record
Dental health is probably something you don’t think about every day. Toothbrush and toothpaste have always sat by our sink. However, this isn’t true for everyone.
This issue came to the attention of a Big Sister, who lives in Loveland. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America pairs an adult with a child in the program. The Big Sister or Big Brother acts as a role model in that child’s life, helping them build their future. This Big Sister noticed that in her Little Sister’s life, toiletries were a luxury. Her Little Sister would ask for items like shampoo and toothpaste.
It turns out this Little Sister’s experience was not unusual. Only 56 percent of Colorado children six years of age or younger have seen a dentist in the last year. Seventeen of Colorado’s 64 counties are considered dental deserts, meaning there are no practicing dentists or dental clinic in the county.
In addition to numerous stats on children’s dental health, perhaps most concerning is, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, untreated cavities are the most common chronic illness among U.S. children age six to 11.
Children with poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school as a result of dental pain. Poor dental health can also be associated with low self-esteem in children, and this issue can lead to lifelong health problems. Untreated, dental diseases have been linked to heart disease, pulmonary disease and more. In 2012 someone visited the emergency room every 15 seconds for an emergency dental condition (stats gathered by Sharon Lipinski).
Sharon Lipinski, founder of Change Gangs, and Christine Forster, a Change Gang board member, were surprised to learn these statistics and a lot more. They wanted to do something big to bring awareness to the dental-health issue, and this is how Miles of Smiles was born.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and, therefore, Miles of Smiles will happen at The Ranch on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The Ranch donated the North Hall for this world record-breaking quest. Miles of Smiles will attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest line of toothbrushes ever created. Their goal is 5.5 miles of toothbrushes, which equals 55,000 packaged toothbrushes. The former record is 0.6 miles, and Lipinski is confident in their chances of breaking the record.
On Feb. 26 a surveyor from the Colorado Department of Transportation will measure the toothbrush line and give Miles of Smiles official documentation for Guinness. There will also be two witnesses, Heather Buoniconi of Food Bank of Larimer County and Todd Harding of K99 Radio, who will count the toothbrushes. In addition, the event will be videotaped. These materials will be sent to Guinness for review and then the organization will issue an official record.
“This event has been in the works for more than a year,” said Lipinski. “It takes a while to work through Guinness to get the approval, and it took time to get our sponsors. Now we have to find volunteers.”
Lipinski and Forster are looking for 50 volunteers to take a two-hour shift on Feb. 26 at The Ranch. Volunteers will help line up the 55,000 packaged toothbrushes.
“We are starting at 7 a.m. in the morning and we’re going to start measuring the line at 4 p.m.,” said Lipinski. “It will be a snake pattern with lines of 250 toothbrushes, six inches apart. The North Hall fits about 48,000 toothbrushes so, in the end, we’ll be placing toothbrushes out the door of the North Hall.”
After the event the 55,000 packaged toothbrushes will be gathered up by additional volunteers, likely high-school students. The toothbrushes will be donated to food banks, children’s backpack programs, and children’s organizations throughout the state.
“It is fun to do something this big. However, the real change comes when you do small things and do them consistently. In a way, Miles of Smiles is an example of that. It’s only big because of all the people who helped make it happen,” said Lipinski. “I want to encourage people to know that they can make a difference. Whatever cause you feel drawn too, start doing something towards that right now at whatever level you are capable of, because that is what makes a big difference.”
Those who’d like to volunteer for this historic event on Feb. 26 can email Sharon Lipinski at [email protected].
The event is sponsored by Delta Dental of Colorado, Nanci Garnand of Re/Max and the Loveland Design Center. Miles of Smiles is brought to you by Change Gangs, nonprofit giving circles that donate to veterans groups, nonprofit pet organizations and poverty charities.
For those who’d like to help but can’t volunteer on the day of the event, Miles for Smiles is taking monetary donations for toothpaste at the event website, MilesofSmilesColorado.com.
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