Crest, Oral B Launch Advocacy Ads Aimed At 'Closing America's Smile Gap'


Now that America’s kids have collected their Halloween candy, it’s time for National Brush Day, an annual occasion stressing the oral health benefits of brushing one’s teeth.

But what about the millions of American children who have neither toothpaste nor toothbrush?

Too often, they use only their fingers and water to brush their teeth, as shown in new ads from “Closing America’s Smile Gap,” a year-old initiative from Procter & Gamble’s Crest and Oral-B brands.

The campaign  -- via Publicis Groupe’s PGOne, with MSL as lead agency and  Saatchi & Saatchi and PXP supporting production  --  broke this morning with an ad in The New York Times, out-of-home digital billboards in New York City, and :15 and :30 second videos on the “Closing America’s Smile Gap” website and Instagram page.



“All kids have the right to a healthy smile,” Carlos De Jesus, P&G’s senior vice president of Oral Care, North America, tells Marketing Daily, “and today millions of kids in underserved communities just don’t have access to the oral care they need. That’s what we call the ‘smile gap.’”

The goal, De Jesus says, “is to get 20 million smiles between now and 2030.”

That number, he explains, is derived from several data points, including 60 million people living in “dental deserts” where “they don’t have access to dental care,” and 17 million kids living in poverty.

Making just a dent toward its long-range goal, Crest and Oral-B will donate a toothbrush and toothpaste to a kid in need – up to 500,000 of them -- for every purchase of a Crest or Oral-B product this month, “so that they have the tools they need every morning and every night,” said De Jesus.

That’s only about 2.5% of the 20 million total U.S. kids the brands want to reach by 2030 -- but a quarter of the 2 million kids in 10 states that have been in the initiative’s initial sights since “Closing America’s Smile Gap” launched in December 2021.

Since then, with such partners as Kare Mobile and Feeding America, “Closing America’s Smile Gap” has had activations in 24 communities across the country, providing dental services and check-ups, educational services, and gratis Crest and Oral-B items. DeJesus says the brands have already donated $2.5 million worth of product this year.

“I talked to one child,” recalls De Jesus, “and he said this was the first toothbrush he ever had, and how excited he was to have his own toothbrush and able to now go home and get those healthy habits… It’s a life-changing event.”

But “toothbrushes and toothpaste run out,” De Jesus notes.  “That’s one of the challenges we have in closing America’s Smile Gap. It’s not a one-time event” but a “multiyear journey,” he explains. “It starts with [the kids] having the basics, but it’s something that we can’t solve on our own.”

Thus, the ad campaign launching today hopes to drive awareness --  to both garner additional partnerships for the initiative and to help drive an infrastructure to reach the 2030 goal. “We need governments, we need schools, we need the media, we need communities to come together to drive long-term systematic change,” De Jesus says.

That change will come through access, education and representation, he says. On the latter front, “we’re partnering with the top dental schools in America to provide scholarships to hygienists and dentists… so they can go back into these communities and help solve the dental deserts.”

Calling cavities and tooth decay “the number one chronic disease in America,” with kids living in low-income communities twice as likely to suffer, De Jesus noted that “cavities lead to pain, cavities lead to missed school days, cavities lead to a lack of confidence and ability to concentrate.”

Closing America’s Smile Gap” launched in December 2021 with an 11-minute video by filmmaker Thoraya Maronesy, and partnerships with Jet Dental, other dental professionals, and nonprofits America’s ToothFairy and Feeding America.

National Brush Day was initiated in 2013 by the Ad Council and a coalition of dental groups.

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