Ideas for Reinforcing Dental Health

The center that I worked for required that dental health be on the lesson plan weekly.  There are a lot of books out there that one can read to the children but there are also plenty of other easy activities you can do with your children to reinforce dental health.

Sing; This is the Way We Brush Our Teeth.  (This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth.  This is the way we brush our teeth after each and every meal).  Science Knowledge; expands knowledge of and respect for their bodies and the environment.

Give the children a half piece of white copy paper on which you have drawn lines vertically leaving an inch from the one edge.  Have the children practice cutting on all the lines.  When they are finished, staple this to a long colored piece of construction paper to make a toothbrush. Fine Motor Skills; develops growing strength, dexterity, and control needed to use tools such as scissors, paper punch, stapler, and hammer.

Use old toothbrushes at the easel with large tooth shape cut from yellow paper.  Give the children white paint and have them brush their tooth clean (cover all the yellow). Engagement & Persistence; demonstrates increasing ability to set goals and develop follow through on plans.

Use old toothbrushes to scrub dirty rocks in the water table.   Add baking soda to make a paste.  Dramatic Play; shows growing creativity and imagination in using materials and in assuming different roles in dramatic play situations.

Remind the children regularly that it is important to clean up toys from the floor so we do not trip and hurt our teeth.  Also you can teach the children that one reason we wear seatbelts is so we won’t bump our teeth in the car.  Health Safety & Practices; builds awareness and ability to follow basic health and safety rules.

Practice having the children open their mouths wide (vocabulary) so that the dentist can see their beautiful teeth. Language Development; uses an increasingly complex and varied vocabulary.

Make a tooth collage using people and animal teeth found in magazines.  Engagement & Persistence; shows growing capacity to maintain concentration over time on a task, question, set of directions or interactions a, despite distractions or interruptions.

Bring in white ceramic tiles.  Let the children smear with paint and then use an old toothbrush and water to clean.  Art; gains ability in using different art media and materials in a variety of ways for creative expression or representation.

Look at pictures of animals and talk about the kinds of teeth they have.  Which has big teeth, sharp teeth, no teeth?  Math Patterns; begins to make comparisons between several objects based on a single attribute.

Help the children learn the names of the different teeth in human mouths.  (Incisors are for biting, Canines are for tearing, and Molars are for chewing). Language; uses an increasingly complex and varied spoken vocabulary.

After washing their hands, give a child a small mirror and ask them to look at their mouth.  Have them touch their cheek, their gums, tongue, lips, and their teeth (vocabulary) and talk about which are hard and which are soft.  Math Patterns; begins to make comparisons between several objects based on a single attribute

Sung to Row, Row, Row Your Boat; Brush, brush, brush your teeth, Each and every day.  Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning fighting tooth decay.  Science; expands knowledge of and respect for their bodies and the environment.

Find pictures (or take pictures of your children) eating, talking, smiling, and chewing.  Discuss what they are doing with their mouths.  (Our teeth are important because we need them to do the above).  Science; expands knowledge of and respect for their bodies and the environment

Make mouth music.  What kinds of sounds can you make with your mouth?  Music; experiments with musical instruments.

Play Simon Says and include; open your mouth wide, show me your teeth, hide your teeth with your lips, chomp your teeth, close your mouth. Language; shows progress in understanding and following simple and multiple-step directions.

Take a picture of each child smiling and make a bulletin board that states, “A Healthy Smile is Always in Style”.  Print Awareness; shows increasing awareness of print in the classroom.

Explain to the children that we need teeth to help us speak clearly.  Show the children how to cover their teeth using their lips and then sing a class song. Language; progresses in clarity of pronunciation.

Draw a picture of a large smile showing many teeth.  Have the children count the teeth.  A typical 3-4 year old has 20 teeth in their mouth. Math; begins to use one-to-one correspondence in counting objects.

Put a hard-boiled egg (this is our tooth) into a glass of coca cola and leave it over night.  Ask the children what they think is going to happen?  This can be done with a real tooth and it takes several days for it to dissolve.  Science; begins to describe and discuss predictions, explanations, and generalizations.

Look at new and old toothbrushes and compare them.  Talk about how it is time for a new toothbrush when the bristles are bent and worn out.  Health Status & Practices; builds awareness and ability to follow basic health and safety rules.

Give each child a blank head template.  Ask them to draw a face with a big smile.  Can they add teeth?  Art; progresses in abilities to create drawings that are more realistic.

Mix a few drops of red food coloring in a cup with a few tablespoons of water.  Ask the child to swish this in their mouth and then spit it out.  Have them look into a mirror and see where all the red is sticking (This indicates plaque).  Have the child then brush their teeth and continue until all the red has disappeared.  Talk about how this is where cavities form and why it is important to brush your teeth well.

Health Status & Practices; shows growing independence in personal care when brushing teeth.

Take an apple and make a hole in it about an inch deep.  Put the apple into a paper bag and wait 3-4 days.  Using a knife, cut through the area where you made the hole and you will see that there is rot/decay within the apple.  Explain that this also happens to teeth and so it is important to brush them well everyday, twice a day. Science; begins to describe and discuss predictions, explanations, and generalizations based on experiences.

Ask children what their favorite food is and list.  Do you need teeth to eat it or not? Self-Concept; begins to express self in terms of preferences.

Give children small mirrors to look at their face and name the parts.  Focus on and around the mouth.  Can they name the body part and it’s function?  (gums=hold teeth in the mouth, tongue=helps to swallow, teeth=chew up the food so you can swallow, lips=to help you speak clearly). Language; uses an increasingly complex and varied vocabulary.

Make a big open mouth shape on a piece of paper.  Have a child roll a dice and add that many teeth to the open mouth.  Use unifix cubes, balls of play dough, or small pebbles to be the teeth.  Math; begins to associate number concepts in a meaningful way.

Sort play foods, or food pictures by those that are good for your teeth and those that are not good for your teeth.  Math; ability to sort according to one or two attributes.

Play, NO Smiling.  Tell the children that no one in line is allowed to smile.  See who can hold off showing their teeth the longest.  Self-Control; increasing capacity to follow rules.

Take a picture of each child’s mouth in a smile (do not include the whole face).  Put these on the wall and play “Guess Who”?  Initiative & Curiosity; grows in eagerness to discuss an idea or task.

Using a new toothbrush play Musical Toothbrush.  Have the children sit in a circle.  Put on music and the children pass the toothbrush around the circle.  When the music stops, the child holding the toothbrush must answer a question about dental hygiene.  (How many times a day should we brush our teeth?  Who do you go to if your tooth is sick?  What part of the mouth holds our teeth in place?  How does a seatbelt protect out teeth?  Why is it important to keep our floor free from unused toys and clutter?  Health Status; builds awareness to follow basic health and safety rules  AND Science;  expands knowledge of and respect for their bodies and the environment.

Check out the Dental Health Curriculum put out by Head Start.