Brush to Crush Cavities

In 2010, the Cayuga County (N.Y.) Health Department came across an alarming discovery about the health of their community’s children.

In this blog, Deanna Hoey, the county’s Public Health Educator, discusses their efforts to decrease the serious incidence of tooth decay in elementary school children.

In 2010, we created the Brush to Crush Cavities program to address a significant problem facing our children: tooth decay.

Dental surveillance conducted by New York State Department of Health indicated that 40.4 percent of third graders had untreated decay. This is a concerning percentage; it is much higher than the New York State average of 24 percent, and very far from the New York State goal of 20.6 percent.

The children’s teachers, school nurses, and principals all informed us that the children were in pain from lack of dental care. Many children did not even own a toothbrush and were forced to share toothbrushes with their family members. Many have never even made a visit to the dentist.

BTC Education

The Brush to Crush Cavities Program was designed to help address issues which may lead a child to have poor oral health. It is our goal to make sure that every child has the education, skills, and tools necessary to be responsible for their own oral health.

Education – Each year, every child receives in-school education on how to properly brush and floss, how to take care of their teeth, and when to realize when they have to visit the dentist. Dental health messages are reinforced throughout the school year with activity sheets, brushing challenges, and classroom projects.

Supplies – Every child is given dental health care kits throughout the school year. We provide kits for in-school use and take-home use. These are distributed multiple times throughout the year and classrooms are given extra kits. Thanks to the Henry Schein Cares Foundation Health Kit Outreach Program, we provided 975 dental health kits to children during this school year.

Daily brushing – In-school daily brushing is encouraged and implemented in most classrooms. Teachers understand that dental health may not be reinforced at home, so they now allot time for children to brush in school to ensure children are brushing at least once a day.

Screenings – Every child has the opportunity to be screened at school with parental permission. Any child who is screened and is identified with a potential problem or is in need of immediate attention is referred to their dental provider or given a list of local dentists.

To encourage the children’s participation, the Brush to Crush Cavities Program brings in Molar Max, our mascot. Molar Max visits classrooms throughout the day to make sure that children are taking proper care of their teeth. The children enjoy Molar Max’s company, which creates a more fun and positive environment.

This was the fourth year of the Brush to Crush Cavities Program at Genesee Elementary School (K-6) and the first year at Casey Park Elementary School (K-6). So far we have provided 1,428 screenings, identified 654 children with dental health problems and 124 children who were in need of immediate care.

We have seen progress since the program’s founding, and look forward to continued success.

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We appreciate the help of the Henry Schein Cares Foundation for providing us with the tools we needed to provide proper oral health care, and look forward to treating more patients in the future.


By Deanna Hoey, Public Health Educator, Cayuga County Department of Health


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