Kids, take it from Elmo (and UCLA): Brushing can be fun!

Posted on: Tuesday, 09/08/2020

Dental school partners with Sesame Street in Communities on new videos promoting children’s oral health

“It’s time to brush, it’s time to brush, it’s time to brush!”

In a new video, the Sesame Street character Elmo sings a refrain that’ll likely be familiar to any parent who has ever encouraged their little angels to brush their teeth.

The two-minute music video is the result of a partnership between a UCLA-led consortium called More LA Smiles and Sesame Street in Communities. “Elmo’s Toothy Dance,” which debuts on YouTube today, is intended to make toothbrushing fun for kids while also including important pointers on proper brushing technique.

It’s the fifth installment in a new series of videos that the partnership has released in recent weeks as part of their campaign promoting children’s oral health. The previous four feature Sesame Street’s Grover character, as a dentist, explaining the importance of dental care for children, tooth-friendly foods, how much toothpaste to use and toothbrushing as part of a bedtime routine.

Elmo's Toothy Dance

More LA Smiles began working with Sesame Street in Communities in 2019. In addition to the videos, the partners have hosted oral health educational activities at Los Angeles schools and clinics, complete with a life-sized Grover. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, alternatives to in-person outreach became a priority, said Dr. Jim Crall, a professor of public health and community dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry and program director of More LA Smiles.

“The pandemic has disrupted regular dental check-ups and in-person oral health education activities in dental offices, clinics and schools,” he said. “The digital treasures we’ve created are ideal for reaching an age group that is spending more time at home and online. We see these videos as not only motivational tools for parents to instill healthy habits in their children, but resources that can be enjoyed for years to come.”

Crall is a leading expert on children’s oral health policy. He received funding in 2017 as part of the Medi-Cal 2020 Dental Transformation Initiative to establish More LA Smiles, which aims to improve the oral health of 500,000 Los Angeles County Medi-Cal beneficiaries in dental, medical and community settings.

“Sesame Street in Communities really listens to early childhood development experts about what messages need to be communicated and weaves in their magic and creativity to effectively bring those messages to families,” Crall said. “We’re very happy to be partnering with such a respected organization to positively impact the oral health of communities throughout Los Angeles and beyond.”

Based on the success of a previous Elmo dental care video, expectations for the new installment are high. “Elmo’s Brushy Brush,” which was posted on YouTube in February 2012, has garnered more than 1.2 billion views, making it the most-viewed Sesame Street video ever.

Sesame Street in Communities builds on Sesame Street’s almost 50-year commitment to addressing kids’ developmental, physical, and emotional needs. Their time-tested research model and thorough testing with families and providers ensures that these resources have a measurable impact in the lives of parents and children.