Teaching Children About Dental Health
We’ve written countless articles about important dental health for adults and children for our patients to read. Educating oneself is extremely important, as there are countless oral issues to know about and emergencies to be prepared to handle. However, learning about dental health shouldn’t be just for adults; it is also important to teach our children about good oral health and how to properly tend to their own mouths. With proper dental health lessons that start at an early age, they will learn what teeth are and what they do, as well as why it is so important to take care of them.
Teaching Dental Health to Young Children
Regardless of age, children and adults alike learn in different ways. Many learn best by listening to a presentation or reading from a textbook, while others learn better by doing hands-on experiments or projects. We have compiled a few of our favorite dental health lesson plans for children of different ages, using both hands on projects as well as others, so everyone is able to learn about the importance of good oral health.
Understanding How Young Children Learn
Grades One Through Three
Things such as decay, crowns or root canals, and fluoride treatment or electric toothbrushes pretty much sounds like a foreign language to kids, especially at a young age, which is why it can be hard to help them understand the importance of good oral health. Using small, simple words like “happy teeth” instead of “good oral health” or “sugar bugs” instead of “bacteria” and “decay” helps the children associate the good words with taking good care of their teeth and bad words with things they want to avoid.
Grades Four and Five
Once they are a little older, you can stop using terms like sugar bugs. As they grow children learn quickly, and that can be a great time to teach them what decay, bacteria, and good oral health actually mean. Don’t be afraid to try using bigger words at this age, as they will be able to ask more questions and be able to have a more in-depth conversation.
A Sample Dental Health Lesson Plan
Subject: Good Oral Health
Lesson Overview: Students will learn the importance of their toothbrush, brushing their teeth after meals, and that not doing so can result in cavities. You will be strengthening their knowledge of the words bacteria, cavities, and toothbrush. This is a hands-on project that they work on with their classmates and later discuss with their families.
Time Frame: 1 hour
You will need one of each of these per child:
- empty egg carton
- one thick shoestring
- a toothbrush
You will need the following in bulk:
- cotton balls
To Begin: Make sure you have enough flour to sprinkle over the surface of the egg cartons and leave them upside down, with the bumps pointing towards the ceiling. Once you have sprinkled each carton, place two to three cotton balls between the bumps of each child’s carton.
The Activity: Begin by telling the children to touch their fingers to the egg carton’s bumps and see that they feel rough and that there is something on their fingers. Explain that before they brush their teeth there is bacteria on them, and we want to get that bacteria off of our teeth so we don’t get cavities. Remember to use simpler words such as sugar bugs for younger kids.
Once all of the children have felt the flour on the “teeth” be sure to point to the cotton balls in their cartons. For added effect, you can dye them in advance but this is not necessary. Tell the children that when you eat, you get food between your teeth, and sometimes it doesn’t come out when you brush. This is where flossing comes in. Have them take their shoestrings and hold them with one hand on each end. They can put the string between the “teeth” in front of them and move it back and forth until the cotton balls have all come out from between the bumps. Now the “teeth” are ready for brushing.
Ask them to feel the cartons one more time, then have them take their toothbrushes and start brushing each bump. Make sure they do this carefully, getting all surfaces of each “tooth.” While they are working on this tell them that by brushing their teeth they are removing the bacteria from them, and explain that if they don’t do this daily, the bacteria gets worse and worse and then causes decay and cavities. You can be as descriptive as you like, but try to stay away from using words they won’t understand or explaining a complex decay process, as that might confuse them.
Finally, once the children have brushed each bump have them feel the carton again. Tell them to note that their fingers come away clean, and the carton’s teeth are now all clean, and this is how their actual teeth should be after each time they brush.
After the Activity: Ask the children to describe how the carton felt before and after brushing. Make sure you ask them questions about decay and how bacteria is bad for their teeth.
Learning About Dental Health Is Important For All Ages
Whether you are eight or eighty, it is so important to take care of your body from head to toe. Too many people neglect their gums and their teeth by not learning about good oral health, and by skipping out on their six-month regular cleanings and check-ups. By doing this you are letting bacteria and decay spread throughout your mouth. Being proactive is key, and the sooner a child learns the importance of their dental health, the less of a chance they have of dealing with gum disease and cavities. Schedule a cleaning and check-up for you and your family with us today, and together we will prevent decay and keep you and your loved ones on the road to good oral health.