Proper dental hygiene at a young age establishes a healthy beginning for children. Early prevention of cavities and tooth decay lasts into adulthood, preventing further health difficulties. Activities that demonstrate the importance of dental hygiene provide children with a better understanding of the topic. The dental hygiene unit blends well with other health topics in elementary classrooms. Encourage the students to share the knowledge they gain with their families to reinforce the information.
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A new toothbrush inspires students to head straight to the sink for a brushing. Contact a local dentist or a toothbrush company to ask for free toothbrushes for the children. Provide each child with his own toothbrush and a trial size tube of toothpaste. After a demonstration of the proper brushing technique on a model of a mouth, allow the students to practice on their own teeth. In a school setting, ask a parent volunteer to accompany two or three students to the rest room to practice brushing. At the end of the day, the students get to take the new toothbrush home to continue with the proper brushing regimen.
Understanding the different types of teeth--canines, molars, etc.--plays a role in dental hygiene. Give the students practice at identifying teeth by creating mouth models. Print a diagram of all the teeth in a child's mouth on a sheet of paper. Provide each student with a copy, asking them to cut around the top and bottom set of teeth. Glue the teeth onto a sheet of construction paper, adding labels to identify the different types of teeth.
An alternative option is to have the students cut squares out of white construction paper to represent all the teeth in a child's mouth. Display a large diagram of a mouth so they can cut the paper in the appropriate sizes. Have the students glue the paper teeth onto a sheet of construction paper.
Children often hear about the importance of brushing teeth. An apple provides a visual reminder of why it is important to brush teeth. Display two apples to the kids, comparing the skin of the apples to the enamel on teeth. Poke a few holes in one of the apples to represent cavities. Leave the other apple untouched. Leave both of the apples on display for several days. Encourage the students to observe what happens to the apple with holes as compared to the untouched apple. Hold a discussion as a class to relate the apple experiment to cavities in teeth.
Dental hygiene activities for children often revolve around brushing. A lesson on flossing provides the students with a chance to practice this important step in dental care. Use a piece of string as the practice floss. Demonstrate the proper way to hold the floss and use it to clean between teeth. Allow the students to practice on each other, using their fingers to represent teeth. Have one child hold up her fingers while the other practices flossing the fingers with the string.
Dental Hygiene Goals
Writing down goals provides a reminder to children and encourages them to stick with the goals. Cut a tooth shape from white paper for each child. Review the dental hygiene topics from previous activities. Ask each student to think of a dental hygiene goal, such as flossing every day or brushing twice daily. Have them write the goals on the tooth shape. Hang the teeth in the shape of a mouth to inspire the children to follow through with the goals.
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