Foundation Spotlight: Esperança’s Oral Health Program

Cavities, sometimes known as “caries” or tooth decay, are one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the United States. In fact, about 1 in 5 children aged 5 to 11 years old have at least one untreated cavity. In Arizona, that number is even higher. More than half of Arizona’s kindergarten children have tooth decay, higher than the national average for 5-year-olds.

Kids with poor oral health often miss more school and get lower grades than kids without oral health issues. Tooth decay can be painful and can cause self-esteem problems, anxiety, a distraction from play and learning, and absenteeism from school.

It’s a hard problem, but one that’s being tackled head on by one of our amazing Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation grantees, Esperança.

Esperanca's oral health educator teaching children about brushing and flossing

About Esperança

Esperança, the Portuguese word for hope, is folded into everything this organization does. Esperança’s core mission is to improve total and oral health for the many communities they serve, both locally and abroad. In Arizona, this means providing health education and resources to the most at-risk and underserved Latino kids, adults, and seniors with community outreach.

Esperança’s bilingual and bi-cultural community health educators come directly from the communities they serve to offer classes in community centers, schools, and clinics. A core component of this programming is focused on oral health. Esperança’s oral health workshops educate about the importance of proper daily hygiene practices and the need for routine dental visits.

Delta Dental of Arizona is a partner that understands how community-based oral health programs have a lasting, multi-generational impact. With our Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation grant, Esperança will expand its services to under-resourced communities across Arizona, improving the overall health of families for years to come, said Jeri Royce, President & CEO of Esperança

Learning with a Smile

Improving oral health outcomes for all Arizonans starts with educating kids at an early age about why brushing and flossing and visiting the dentist each year are so important for their smiles. Esperança’s Learning with a Smile program provides oral health education to children and seniors in Title 1 schools, churches, and senior centers. As part of this program kids and seniors are given a Smile Bag that contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and referrals to dental providers who offer dental care at reduced/no cost.

Funding from the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation will support Learning with a Smile in 2022 by enabling over 4,600 kids and seniors across Maricopa and Yuma counties with access to oral health education and Smile Bags.

Elijah’s Healthy Smile Story

A wonderful example of the power of oral health education comes to us from Elijah and his sister Kira. Both kids participate in a free daycare program for low-income families through Native American Connections. During a classroom visit, an Esperança community health educator talked to the kids about cavities and the best ways to keep their smiles healthy. Elijah and his sister learned why they need to brush their teeth and try to drink less sugary juices and sodas each day.

Elijah and his sister left the classroom knowing how to care for their smiles and with new toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and Grin! for Kids magazines provided by the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation.

Young boy holds a Grin for Kids oral health magazine provided by Delta Dental of Arizona

To learn more about our Foundation and some of the organizations we support check out these other articles:

Or, to read more about our community grant program, strategic partnerships, Smile Bag Program, and charitable tax credit we invite you to visit us online at

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