Go to content

Lessons in a Lunch Box

Ben Milam Elementary kids treated to food for thought

studentTooth decay remains the most common chronic disease of children ages 5 to 17.

Lessons in a Lunch Box: Healthy Teeth Essentials & Facts About Snacks is an educational oral health literacy program striving to give tooth decay the big brush off and help children live happier and healthier lives. 

On April 13, children in first through fourth grade and a special education class at Ben Milam Elementary in Dallas enjoyed learning about oral health thanks to fourth-year dental students Carla Lopez, Purvi Patel and Rory Smith. The event was organized by the Department of Public Health Sciences in cooperation with the Dallas Independent School District.

Launched in Baltimore in 2008, Lessons in a Lunch Box empowers children and their families with the proper knowledge about routine dental care, proper oral health maintenance, good dietary choices and more using a "dentally designed" lunch box.

The presentations are geared to elementary school-aged children. They are led by eager and approachable dental and dental hygiene students who teach the children songs, how to brush and floss properly and the importance of good nutrition. The children are rewarded for their attentive participation with bright orange lunch boxes. 

HSC-BCD students
        Rory Smith, Carla Lopez and Purvi Patel with
                             one of the lunch boxes
These are not normal run-of-the-mill lunch boxes. They are decorated with colorful stickers featuring the logos of organized dentistry and program sponsors; a list of the U.S. dental schools; a place for each child to put his or her name; and a reflective, metallic sticker in the shape of a smile that reads, "See Yourself Becoming a Dentist."

As with any lunch box, it is what's inside that really counts. In addition to an illustration of the USDA nutritional diagram for children and a proper flossing and brushing guide, each lunch box contains a "Dental Care in a Carrot" case. The plastic "carrot" holds a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, sand timer and a "carrot" top which is also a rinse cup. 

Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry was the only Texas dental school invited by the Maryland Children's Oral Health Institute to present this program in the state in 2010.

Leeanna Bartlett, assistant professor and director of social services, says it was easy to choose the student presenters. "Carla (Lopez) has a son who is a third grader. Purvi (Patel) volunteers regularly with children and Rory (Smith) plans to pursue pediatric dentistry. They were excellent representatives of the dental school, and the children enjoyed the program."

If Ben Milam Elementary is any indication, the dental students did an excellent job recruiting future dental care providers.  At the end of the program Smith asked the children, "Who wants to become a dentist or dental hygienist?" Every hand in the crowd shot up in the air immediately.

Here's hoping the 187 children who received their lunch boxes on April 13 will grow up with healthy smiles and a healthy respect for dentistry.


during the program lunch boxes