Sesame Street characters tout oral health

March 2, 2012
Sam’s Club and MetLife Foundation team up to support Sesame Street’s Oral Health Project

Dental caries (tooth decay) is one of the most common health problems impacting young children’s primary teeth.1 In fact, nearly 40-to-50 percent of children will be affected by tooth decay by age five2 and according to the latest Surgeon General’s report, Oral Health in America, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related conditions.3

In response to these facts, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, in partnership with Sam’s Club Giving Program and MetLife Foundation, has developed Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me, a bilingual (English/Spanish), multimedia outreach initiative motivating children 2 to 5 years of age, their parents, and caregivers to care for children’s dental health. The 350,000 free outreach kits are being distributed nationwide and are also available at Healthy Teeth, Health Me features brand new songs, animated segments and celebrity guests Bruno Mars, David Hyde Pierce, Nicole Kidman, Amy Ryan, Wendy Williams, Jay Sean, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber.

The announcement was made today at The Children’s Aid Society Dunlevy Milbank Center in New York City with help from Sesame Street’s oral health advisory member James J. Crall, DDS, ScD, Professor & Chair, UCLA Public Health & Community Dentistry and Child Advocate for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Lance de la Rosa, SVP Operations, North Division, Sam’s Club, Sherrie Westin , EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Sesame Workshop, Dennis White, President and CEO, MetLife Foundation, and Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby and Gordon.

In addition, the Children's Health Fund mobile dental clinic offered educational tours. This full-service "dentist's office on wheels," also funded by MetLife Foundation, provides timely and preventive oral health care to low-income and homeless children in New York City.

“Programs such as Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me are absolutely critical to increasing awareness of the importance of developing good oral health habits in early childhood that provide life-long benefits, and the connection between good oral health and children’s ability to learn in school, be free from pain and infection, and feel good about themselves,” said James J. Crall, DDS, ScD, Professor & Chair, UCLA Public Health & Community Dentistry and Child Advocate for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. “Educating children and those who care for them about the importance of oral health in pre-school age children is essential to breaking the recurring cycle of dental disease and reducing the profound disparities in oral health that continue to negatively impact the lives of millions of children and their families throughout this nation. The commitment of Sesame Workshop and its partners to this effort is commendable and potentially transformative.”

The project objectives include:
• Empowering children to make healthy choices that will have a positive impact on their oral health
• Educating adults about the benefits of young children’s preventive oral care and recommended strategies to establish a foundation for healthy habits early in life.

“This partnership aligns well with our initiative to provide important health solutions for our members, and this outstanding outreach opportunity will directly benefit young children and help caregivers make oral health a priority,” said Jill Turner-Mitchael, Senior Vice President, Sam’s Club Health and Wellness. “Sesame Street provides an outstanding audience and method to lead this multimedia initiative, and we are excited to be standing there next to them.”

“Developing good oral health habits is a vital part of a comprehensive approach to better overall health care,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “MetLife Foundation is pleased to work with Sesame Workshop to help educate children and families on the importance of oral health care. The earlier children and families begin to learn about dental hygiene and receive preventive care, the better equipped they will be to develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.”

Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me emphasizes the easy everyday routines and good habits to keep children’s teeth, mouths and, therefore, bodies healthy and strong. The bilingual (English/Spanish) outreach kit includes an original Sesame Street DVD, a family booklet, public service messages, online community health providers guide, interactive online game, and a downloadable brushy brush song to help make toothbrushing fun. Three hundred and fifty thousand Healthy Teeth kits, available at no cost, will be distributed through such partners as National WIC Association, the Children’s Health Fund, Alliance for Hispanic Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( Region 2), Sam’s Club, First 5 Association of California, and other community based organizations working with families with young children. Additionally, the materials will be available for free on iTunes and Amazon VOD in the Learn Along with Sesame section.

“This is an opportunity for Sesame Street to continue to use its influence to help families and their children make healthy decisions about oral health at a time when nurturing children’s overall development is so critical and the subsequent positive effects can last a lifetime,” said Sherrie Westin, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Sesame Workshop. “We are excited to partner with Sam’s Club and MetLife Foundation bringing these much needed resources to families with young children.”

1 . CDC. (2005). Surveillance for dental caries, dental sealants, tooth retention, edentulism, and enamel fluorosis, United States, 1988–1994 and 1999–2002. Retrieved from on February 24, 2011
2 Pierce, K.M., et. al. (2002). Accuracy of pediatric primary care providers’ screening and referral for early childhood caries. Pediatrics, 109(5).
3 . U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, 2000.