Photo courtesy of the Children's Oral Health Institute

“Lessons in a Lunch Box” successfully encourages dental health careers

Feb. 8, 2022
A program that guides elementary school students toward a dental career is paying off. The first recipients are crediting the program in their applications.

It’s been 14 years since the initiation of “Lessons in a Lunch Box,” a program designed to encourage second and third graders to “see yourself becoming a dentist.” Today those efforts are paying off with the first Lunch Box recipients applying to dental school.

The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) recently reported about a dental school applicant who cited the Lessons in a Lunch Box program. The candidate wrote about the program in their 2022 ADEA Association of American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) application as an example of academic enrichment under the “experience type” section. The Children’s Oral Health Institute praised ADEA for tracking the Lessons in a Lunch Box data. 

The nonprofit has sponsored the program since 2008, therefore, 2022 is the year when the first youth who were exposed to Lessons in a Lunch Box qualify to apply to dental school or a dental hygiene program. 

This culmination of the first distribution of the lunch boxes, with the application process to dental school 14 years later, is an invaluable milestone delivered via this ordinary container. The bright orange lunch box cleverly designed to include career-focused messaging, health-care information, and “dental care in a carrot” has provided excitement, inspiration, and exposure that connects elementary school children to the profession of dental medicine. 

This primary school introduction in some part has led to the ultimate dividend—a candidate applying to dental school. The Circle of Health International (COHI) credits many of the programs for planting the seeds that contributed to some applicants selecting dentistry as a career. The nonprofit has said corporate sponsors, organized dentistry, dental school deans, student dentists, civic groups, and the many supportive volunteers should all feel triumphant. 

“It’s heartening to see the positive impact that innovative resources can teach young students about oral health, even setting them on a career path toward dentistry,” said Karen P. West, DMD, MPH, president and CEO of ADEA. “Such programs are crucial in developing the next generation of oral health professionals.” 

To date, nearly 65,000 children and their families have been the recipients of the Lessons in a Lunch Box: Healthy Teeth Essentials & Facts About Snacks program. Visit The Children’s Oral Health Institute for more information at