Getting children to brush their teeth isn’t an easy task, but many kids need to understand the importance of oral health before they are willing to put in the time. Use these activities to catch their interest and help develop healthy dental habits for life.
Activity: Tooth Facts
Before kids can understand why they need to protect their teeth, they need to learn about their own mouths. Start the discussion by asking kids how they lost their first tooth. Using construction paper and markers, have the kids make a large tooth and identify the different parts inside. Take the opportunity to explain how children will lose their baby teeth and get a permanent set of 32 adult teeth. When complete, line up the teeth into a smile and show how to properly brush. Let each child have a go at brushing the oversized teeth.
Game: Eat That, Not This
This activity highlights the importance of proper eating for tooth health. Using old magazines, cut out pictures of all kinds of different foods, from healthy snacks to sugary treats. Place all the pictures in a large pile and have kids divide up the photos into two piles: Happy Healthy Teeth and Sad Unhealthy Teeth. Use the activity to prompt discussions on why certain foods are bad for their oral health.
Experiment: Apple Tooth Decay
Kids respond best to examples they can see. The waxy outside of an apple is not so different from the protective layer of enamel on a tooth. Ask kids to predict what they think will happen if they developed a hole in their enamel. Poke a hole in the apple and refer to it as a cavity. Over the next week, let kids write down their observations and relate it back to tooth health.
Activity: How to Floss
Using egg carton bottoms as a model mouth, explain how the space between teeth allows bacterial built up. Have them use the yarn to properly floss between the teeth and get a feel for flossing inside their own mouths. Then, hand each a length of dental floss to try for themselves. Dr. Robert Petrtyl, a Cincinnati pediatric dentist, says it’s important for children to learn the importance of flossing at an early age. Discuss some flossing techniques, using the egg cartons as a model, and let kids try it out for themselves. Encourage flossing on a daily basis as a way to fight bacteria and keep teeth healthy.
With these activities, you will be able to build a firm understanding of why brushing and flossing are so important. Most children have been to their first dental appointment by the age of two. If they haven’t, it may be important to set up a pretend dentist visit to help them know what to expect.