Bridging the Dental Gap


+400 Points

We understand that taking care of our pearly whites is a big deal, but it's not always easy, especially for kids in under-resourced communities. Your mission? Do some digging to find out why oral health is falling through the cracks in the U.S. or your community, and then let your creative genius run wild! Come up with a unique product, a cutting-edge business idea, or an awe-inspiring viral marketing campaign to make sure every child has an opportunity for a healthy smile. Show off your brilliant ideas with a video pitch to The Delta Dental Institute for a chance to win $$$, and of course, add an amazing real-world project to your resume and college applications.

In this Challenge, you'll explore the question:

How can oral health be improved for kids in under-resourced communities?

This Challenge is still available to earn points!! The prize money was awarded to past winners.

Add this experience to your resume, LinkedIn, portfolio, etc. See our guide 'How to Add a Challenge to a Resume,' which includes sample bullet points.

HealthcareEarn Points!
Delta Dental - main image

Skills you'll develop

  • Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Social Awareness

Explore the Issue

Congratulations on taking the first step to solve this Challenge -- becoming an expert on the topic! Pick and choose from all of the resources in this section to learn about the topic. Watch the video to learn more about this phase.

⏱️Time: 2- 4 Hours (Week 1 of the Challenge)

✏️Use the optional KNOtebook to record notes and questions

💼Mentor: Ask a mentor questions about the topic

🎯Future-Ready Skills: Social Awareness, Initiative and Self-Direction

Build Background Knowledge

It may come as a surprise to some, but the state of your teeth can have a substantial impact on your overall health and wellness. Want to know why? Explore the connection between oral care and overall well-being.

mouth-key 1

Oral Health for Overall Health

Did you know that your oral health is incredibly important to your overall health? Your mouth is considered the “gateway” to your general health, making it crucial to maintain good oral hygiene. Neglecting your oral health can have severe consequences on the rest of your body, leading to various diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. These health issues hit under-resourced communities hardest. Raising awareness about oral health barriers is not only beneficial for a brighter smile but also for healthier and happier communities.

A Healthy Mouth and Body

Watch one or more of the videos to understand the importance of a healthy mouth.  

Oral Health and Overall Health (2:21)

Oral Health and the Rest of Your Body (2:40)

Oral Health and Heart Disease (4:14)

Chew on This!

The Mouth-Mind Link

Your smile is more valuable than you realize. Healthy teeth can elevate your self-image and enhance your social life both IRL and online. Plus, a bright and healthy smile can even improve your chances of acing a job interview. That’s why taking care of your teeth improves your overall well-being. symptoms.

Drill down into some ways that oral health affects your mental health.

Oral Care Through Life Cycles

Good oral hygiene is a commitment throughout our life cycles. Age-targeted practices and interventions are needed to improve oral health during different periods of life, starting at birth. Explore the important preventative care measures at each childhood stage of the life cycle.

Oral Health 0-3 Years (1:52)

Oral Health 4-12 Years (2:04)

Oral Health 13-19 Years (2:04)

Oral Health Disparities

Although oral health is important for everyone, it is not equally accessible or attainable. Let's take a closer look at this issue.

Everyone Deserves a Healthy Mouth

Even with modern dental care advancements, people in America still hit roadblocks when it comes to accessing crucial oral health services and adopting healthy habits. These barriers can be unique to each community, but some typical hurdles include:

  • Low access to oral health care 

  • High prevalence of dental disease

  • Limited ability to afford oral health care

  • Limited or no dental insurance coverage for basic diagnostic, preventative, and treatment services. 

  • Lack of transportation to dental offices

  • Lack of access to healthy foods (food deserts)

tooth-barriers - resize

Oral Health Challenges

Learn more about the oral health disparities by watching some videos.

Racism and Oral Health (1:41)

Disparities and the Latino Community (2:02)

Dental Care for Native Americans (3:04)

Oral Health & Pregnancy (Chinese) (1:01)

What the Stats Say

Check out some statistics about oral health care disparities.

Dental Statistics

Help Wanted: Diversity in the Dental Profession

Dental Care Workforce

Studies show that racial and ethnic diversity in healthcare providers results in higher patient satisfaction and better health outcomes. Patients are more comfortable with providers that represent their background. Unfortunately, the current oral health workforce falls short of this diversity, with less than 10% of dentists being Black or Hispanic, despite these groups accounting for over 30% of the U.S. population. To be more precise, the U.S. would need 10,714 Black dentists, 31,214 Hispanic/Latino dentists, and 2,825 American Indian or Alaskan Native dentists to properly represent the respective shares of the population. (Source)

That means that by pursuing a career in the dental field you could help to address one of the major equity issues in healthcare today. Read more: 5 barriers to oral health care affecting African Americans | Delta Dental

diverse dental profession

The racial mix of the dentist workforce does not reflect the U.S. population with Black and Hispanic dentists significantly underrepresented in the profession, according to the Health Policy Institute. See more statistics.

DD Racial Stats

Why Dentistry? Meet Some Professionals

Dentistry can be a rewarding profession for many reasons. One of the most significant is the opportunity to positively impact the health and well-being of your patients. Additionally, dentistry provides a unique chance to be your own boss and even own a dental practice. Select the question marks to see short videos about different professions.

How much money are dentists making? How much money do dentists ACTUALLY make?

Dentistry and Curbing Racism

Dr. mOe Anderson expands minds one word at a time! Monica F. Anderson, DDS (aka Dr. mOe), is a bestselling author, podcast host, speaker, and dentist. Listen to what she has to say about what dentistry can teach us about curbing racism.

Learn more about Dr. mOe: LinkedIn Monica mOe Anderson

Filling the Gaps

What does it take to achieve oral health? 

Why is it so hard to take care of our pearly whites? And, how can we break through these roadblocks to get those grins sparkling? Let's brush up on the three main categories of oral health care and see if we can come up with a creative idea to make mouths healthy and happy. Whether it's a cool product, a new biz, or an awareness campaign, let's give kids the gift of smiles!

Daily Hygiene

Let's get real - brushing and flossing are the dynamic duo of dental care. We all know the routine: brush twice a day for two minutes and floss once daily. Oh, and don't forget to swap your toothbrush every three months! Sure, we may be brushing champs, but flossing? Eh, not so much. But wait, there's more! Brushing only gets 50% of your teeth clean - the part you can see. The other 50% is hiding in the nooks and crannies between your teeth. That's where flossing steps in to blast away the sneaky germs where disease can start. 

Get inspired! Check out some examples of ways to address the challenges of oral hygiene.

Kid flossing

Daily Hygiene Example Solutions

Get inspired! Check out some examples of ways to address the challenges of oral hygiene.

Kid Toothbrushes

This is a great example of a solution for young kids to make brushing more fun! Artists design Curaden unique toothbrushes. "I hope kids will smile every time they see the little monster faces," says the designer of kid's toothbrushes. The toothbrushes use bold colors and playful designs for special edition toothbrushes. Learn more about graffiti edition toothbrushes and the designer behind them.

What ideas do you have to get kids to enjoy brushing?


AI Toothbrush

Technology for toothbrushes? Believe it or not, artificial intelligence is useful for toothbrushes and has been used for awhile. AI is used to provide real-time "tracking and coaching", a pressure sensor, and seven different modes. The Oral-B powered iO toothbrush is $200.

Maybe you can make an affordable hi-tech toothbrush!

OralB-AI - small

Make Flossing Fun

Check out Delta Dental's flossing campaign video to make flossing fun for kids. Tips such as: using colored floss, singing a fun song, creating a rewards calendar with healthy prizes, and setting a good example.

Maybe you're thinking of doing a marketing campaign for your project, this is a great example!

The Mouth Walk

This Mouth Walk video is about a mother and daughter learning how poor oral hygiene can lead to problems like gingivitis, cavities, sensitive teeth, and bad breath. The video promotes Listerine(R) mouthwash to fight gum and dental problems for a healthy mouth.

Take a look at a good example of a marketing campaign video.

Dental Hygiene Activity

Explore this cute low-tech activity for kids to learn how to floss by practicing using Mega Building Blocks, play dough, string, a shoelace, or a piece of yarn to act as dental floss.

Maybe you have an idea for creating a new product to help kids learn to floss!

kid at dentist

Regular Dental Visits

Let's face it, dentists aren't exactly the life of the party, but regular dental check-ups are like superheroes for your teeth! These visits include a teeth scrub, an x-ray peek, and a fluoride power-up, all to prevent any dental disaster from sneaking up on you. Plus, the more often you see your dentist, the less likely you'll be spooked by them. Even the tiniest of humans should start their dental journey early on. But, let's not ignore the hurdles to getting to the dentist, such as cost, access, trust, and insurance.

Regular Dental Visit Example Solutions

Get inspired! Check out some examples of ways to address the challenges of dental visits.

Dental Home for Teens

Going to the dentist is not the most fun thing for anyone -- let alone teenagers! Oftentimes, childhood dentists are too "kiddy," but adult dentists are too "adult-centered." In dentistry, as in life teenagers are often caught in between. However, A Children's Dentistry of Charlottesville provides an environment that caters to more comfortable teens. Read more.

What ideas do you have for this age group?


Native American Tooth Fairy

Check out this collaboration between Running Strong for American Indian Youth and Kristina, a dental hygienist and Native American Tooth Fairy. The video reviews basic oral health tips for young children.

What ideas do you have for encouraging kids to see a dentist?

Dientes Clinic

What makes oral health a social justice issue? Dientes Community Dental Care shares some of the disparities in dental care and how they are working to overcome them.

Maybe you have an idea for a dental business!

Children's Doctor: Dental App

In this game, children learn how to take care of a pet's teeth by pretending to be a real dentist at an animal hospital. They treat four-footed pups in the hopes that they will be inspired to take better care of their own teeth, and maybe even become interested in dentistry (for animals or humans)!

Maybe you ca create a game to encourage kids to go to the dentist!



We know that fluoride prevents tooth decay. But hang on, don't stop at just fluoride. To prevent tooth decay and gum disease, we need to be all-inclusive. Healthy eating, sealants, oral piercing care, avoiding tobacco, and shielding our teeth in sports are just as important. Sure, there are tons of dental products out there, promising sparkling teeth, tongue scraping, fancy toothpicks, and water flossers. But don't let them overwhelm or break the bank!


Prevention Example Solutions

Get inspired! Check out some examples of ways to address the challenges of preventative habits.

Essentials for Healthy Summer Smiles

Delta Dental created this video to remind people of some summer habits for healthy teeth, including using lip balm with SPF 30+, staying hydrated, snacking on veggies, and wearing a mouth guard for sports.

How can you encourage youth to practice good dental habits?

Oral Hygiene Tips

Dental students created this fun video on suggestions to improve oral health care for children ages 3 and up.

Does this inspire you?

School Sealant Program

School sealant programs are a very effective way to reach children who are at greater risk for developing cavities and less likely to receive private dental care. Read more.

Do you have an idea for a new program, organization, or business?


Tobacco and Teeth Awareness

In this video, Mr. Gross Mouth shows the damage caused by smoking, or using dip or snuff. The chemicals in tobacco can cause cancer on the tongue, gums, or the roof or your mouth. It can also cause cavities and make your teeth fall out.

Yuck! What ideas do you have for warning youth about the impact of tobacco on their mouths?

Zero Waste Oral Hygiene Business

Sustainable tooth care products offer people ways to brush green. From bamboo toothbrushes to zero-waste toothpaste, there's a lot to choose from! See some example products.

What new product ideas do you have?

zero waste-resize

Check Your Understanding

Based on the examples above of solutions that address the challenges of oral health care, drag each of the items to the category that best fits that solution: a product idea, business or organization concept, or an awareness campaign.

Next Steps

icon training small

Mentor Moment: Ask Questions!

Did you know that there are professionals, who created the Challenge, standing by to help you? They will also be judging your final pitches, so be sure to take advantage throughout the Challenge and post your questions on your dashboard. They want you to win!

What are you curious about? Ask them any questions that came up for you during the Explore phase.

Three Approaches: Your Choice!

One important part of The KnoPro Challenges is choosing the type of solution you plan to create (in a group or solo) and ultimately pitch to the judges. Check out an example of each of your choices: a product idea, a new business concept, or a marketing campaign. You can also get inspiration from all the winning projects.

Flip the cards to help you decide which approach you may want to take. Later in the Challenge, you'll choose ONE approach.


Product Idea

Product Idea

Get creative and come up with a new product idea that addresses the problem. This might be an app, a game, or a consumer product, for example. The possibilities are endless! You’ll write a design brief to plan your product, and ultimately create a “prototype” to pitch to the judges.

Business Concept

Business Concept

Imagine a unique business idea that addresses the problem. This might be a for-profit or non-profit venture, an online platform, or an in-person experience/pop-up shop, for example. The possibilities are limitless! Write a business plan, and then create a fun way to share your business idea with the judges.
Marketing (1)

Marketing Campaign

Marketing Campaign

Design an exciting and catchy marketing campaign that addresses the problem and inspires people to act! The campaign might be a viral social media video, a series of emails, or a live event, for example. You’ll write up a marketing plan and then create some "assets" and pitch your idea to the judges.

Narrow the Issue

Get ready to choose a focus, an audience, and a brainstorming question!