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Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease for young people ages 6 to 19 — affecting over 45 percent of those in that age group. Tooth decay and infection can cause pain, discoloration, and eventual tooth loss if left untreated, negatively impacting a child’s health and wellbeing. 

The pandemic is making kids’ oral health even more challenging — many haven’t been getting regular checkups and they’ve been struggling with following recommended healthy dental habits including brushing and flossing. 

“Oral health is essential,” says Maria Ryan, D.D.S., Ph.D., vice president and chief dental officer at Colgate-Palmolive Company

At Colgate, we make products that promote healthy smiles. Not only because having a healthy smile is important to your overall health, but because when you have a healthy smile, you actually smile more.

“Cavities need to be prevented and dental decay does not disappear on its own. Parents and kids should not delay dental care whether it’s preventive or therapeutic.”

To address current COVID concerns, many dental offices have employed extra health and safety protocols so people can call ahead to learn about them.

Cavity-free futures

Colgate is on a mission to create a cavity-free future for all.

“A healthy smile is critical to a child’s development — from broader systemic health to academic success to social and emotional wellness,” says Maria Elisa Carvajal, Colgate’s vice president of Global Oral Care.

Learn how Colgate champions optimism, sustainability, and healthy smiles around the world.

Colgate’s research, conducted in 12 countries including the United States, showed 50-80 percent of children suffer from tooth decay or cavities. Of children experiencing issues with their teeth, half of kids and parents missed 2-3 days of school/work over the past year. In the United States, Colgate found cavities have a significant social and emotional impact on kids, with one third of kids feeling worried and embarrassed when they experience a cavity.

Through a new campaign, Colgate is amplifying awareness of the prevalence of cavities — and what people can do in response.

The Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures (BSBF) program provides free dental screenings and oral health education for underserved children worldwide. Over the past 30 years, the program has reached over 1 billion kids in over 80 countries. The goal is to reach 2 billion kids by 2025. 

In the United States, Colgate’s classroom curriculum reaches nearly 4 million children in all 50 states. The BSBF program is mobile in some areas and in a typical year Colgate’s fleet of mobile dental vans travel to rural and urban communities, providing free dental screenings, oral health education, and treatment referrals to over 10 million children who may not have access to care.

Partnering for smiles

Since 2007, Colgate has partnered with the American Dental Association (ADA) on the Give Kids A Smile® (GKAS) program. It helps improve oral health disparities in underserved communities by educating parents and children about the importance of oral health while providing children with free oral healthcare, including screenings, and preventive and restorative treatment.

“Colgate has been instrumental in upholding our shared mission to increase access to dental care and oral health programs for underserved children,” says Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., president of the American Dental Association. 

Imagine if everyone had all the guidance they need to keep their smile healthy. We could eliminate so many preventable and treatable oral health problems. That’s Colgate’s vision.

While the program looks a little different this year, it will continue with enhanced safety and infection control protocols for 250,000 kids who will receive essential dental services.

Dr. Klemmedson says the successful public-private partnership exemplifies what can be accomplished in thousands of underserved communities by working together.

Healthy habits

Regular oral care and prevention from the earliest stages of life helps ensure baby teeth and later, adult teeth, are healthy.

“Cavities are generally preventable with a healthy diet, good oral hygiene, and regular dental checkups,” says Dr. Ryan.

She urges parents to help their children establish and maintain proper oral health habits including brushing twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and using mouth rinses as needed.

Looking for expert dental advice? Search the Oral Care Center for articles and videos to help you care for you and your family’s smiles at every stage.

The new hum kids by Colgate toothbrush, which features augmented reality games and rewards via the hum kids by Colgate App, can help kids improve and enjoy their brushing routine.

Establishing fun and healthy oral care routines can help kids develop healthy habits for life. To learn more about proper oral healthcare, visit

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