Caption: ‘Gerbils on a train’ video used as part of the Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives campaign. ‘People spend 15 minutes watching online videos like this one,’ chirps the gerbil. How about 2 minutes to brush their teeth?

IF IT TAKES a village to raise a child, it can’t hurt to enlist a team of cartoon icons, creative educators and generous sponsors to help ensure that child’s commitment to proper oral health as well. This August marked the second anniversary of the launch of Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives, a campaign from the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives (a 36-group consortium sponsored by the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation) and the Ad Council, the nonprofit group behind Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl.

How has it done thus far?

According to an Incisal Edge dental lifestyle magazine report:

“Consumer research after the first year of advertising showed a significant change in people’s awareness of oral health and their brushing habits,” says Gary Price, president of the DTA. “Since that’s the point of the whole campaign, we were excited to see such positive results.” The initiative, the first oral-health program in the Ad Council’s 72-year history, has also exceeded the organization’s averages for both public awareness of the message after one year and donated media (having logged 53 percent recognition nationwide and $55 million, respectively).

The Ad Council created Toothsavers, an app that debuted in the iTunes store’s Kids section this May. The game, in which an evil sorceress bent on universal tooth decay must be stopped, has been downloaded more than 100,000 times. A partnership with Scholastic led to educational kits distributed to 125,000 pre-K through first-grade teachers, materials that have reached nearly 4 million children nationwide. The Ad Council also set up a Web site,, which offers a collection of two-minute videos (starring Elmo, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other animated stars) that kids can watch while they brush morning and evening.

Price is ebullient about the success of the campaign so far, and equally bullish about its prospects. “The message is aimed at increasing the oral-health literacy of a generation of kids,” some 16 million of whom suffer from tooth decay, he notes. “It’s encouraging that so many people want to help.”

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