Poor oral health causes kids to miss up to 51 million hours of class time each year and can have a negative impact on their future success. Since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and Gum Disease Awareness Month, there is no better time to teach kids about keeping their smiles healthy!
You don’t have to be a dental professional to teach kids about proper oral health. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or simply someone who wants to help kids in your community live healthier lives, we’ve compiled lots of engaging resources to make teaching easy and learning fun!
Educational resources from America’s ToothFairy:
Can you educate at least 250 children each year? Click here to learn more about our ToothFairy 101® Community Education Kit and custom Resource Kits for eligible entities providing oral health education and outreach.
Visit our Resources Page for free downloadable materials to teach kids about the importance of a healthy mouth. (Scroll to the bottom for a selection of materials in languages other than English.) Other great resources:
Make your own toothpaste: 4 tsp. Baking soda 1 tsp. Salt 1 tsp. Flavoring (such as peppermint extract) Mix and store in an airtight container. Extra fun: name your toothpaste and create a label for the container.
Create oral health posters to hang around school. Have students vote on the best poster and award a prize.
Carefully cut the bottom off of a plastic soda bottle. Paint it white to resemble a tooth. Make a runny paste with flour and water (add food coloring if you like) and splatter it on the tooth to resemble food and plaque. Let it harden. Have children attempt to brush the flour mixture away. Show how difficult it is once it has hardened versus before it has had a chance to sit on the “tooth”. Reinforce the importance of brushing for 2 minutes, 2 times each day. (Alternative: use a white egg carton instead of making a tooth.) Or check out this fun version with a plaster mold and hardened Play-Doh.
Teach kids about the importance of flossing:
Young children can practice their technique using Lego/Duplo blocks (shown right), egg cartons or ice cube trays. Stick Play-Doh between and around the base of “teeth” and give the children floss to remove it. Stress the importance of flossing not only to remove food from between the teeth but also to remove plaque below the gum line to prevent the buildup of tartar. Click here for more information about proper flossing technique.
Teach kids about foods that are healthy for their teeth.
Cut apart a white styrofoam egg carton to make little “teeth”. Give each child their own “tooth” and have them select a snack from a list of foods that include both tooth-friendly and unhealthy options. If they select a tooth-friendly food, use a highlighter or dry erase marker to color food spots on their tooth. If they select an unhealthy food, use a Sharpie or permanent black marker to color food spots on their tooth. Now give the child a toothbrush to brush away their food spots. Explain that the healthy foods are easy to brush away but the unhealthy foods are hard to brush away and can lead to cavities. (Refer to our 5 Core Lessons Packet for help with teaching about how unhealthy foods affect our teeth.)
Show how sugar helps plaque grow with a science experiment called “Plaque Attack!” It’s a great way to simulate how sugar feeds the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Check out this article that explains how plaque affects our oral health and how to remove it.