Your Mouth Matters: Dental Health Tips for Kids and Families
Chelsea Kolander, MPH/MSW – Health Educator, Dental Health Theatre Manager
Alaina Carter, CHES – Health Educator
A bright smile and healthy teeth aren’t the only benefits of good dental health habits. Proper oral care also impacts academic performance and general health. According to Delta Dental:
- “Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the country, and every year children miss 51 million hours of school because of oral health problems.”
- “Gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, occurs when bacteria in the mouth grow into plaque, causing inflammation and bleeding in the gums. When left untreated, the plaque can spread below the gum line, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which increases the risk for systemic diseases, such as heart disease.”
- “Research has found a strong connection between periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. Proper care of the mouth, including treatment of gum disease, may even help diabetics achieve better blood sugar control.”
Ten Tips for Terrific Teeth AND Good Health
Taking care of your mouth is an investment in taking care of yourself and your family. Here are a few tips for good oral care recommended by the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and New York University College of Dentistry.
- Sharing is not caring when it comes to dental health. Do not share eating utensils nor “clean” a pacifier by putting it in your mouth. This can spread bacteria that can cause cavities in your child’s mouth.
- Drink fluoridated water or ask your dentist if a fluoride supplement is needed to promote the formation of strong, healthy teeth.
- After feeding your infant, clean your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth to prevent the buildup of plaque (soft, sticky bacteria) that can cause tooth decay. Don’t allow your baby to sleep with a bottle or pacifier, as this can also cause tooth decay/cavities.
- Take children to the dentist no later than their first birthday for a check-up. Ask the dentist about applying dental sealants to prevent cavities on the surfaces of teeth. Visit the dentist twice per year unless your dentist says otherwise.
- As soon as teeth come through the gums, teach your kids to brush twice a day for two minutes each time. Use a thin layer of toothpaste for kids under 2. Assist them until they can hold the toothbrush on their own, but continue to supervise proper brushing and flossing (once a day, as soon as teeth are in contact with each other) until age 7.
- When choosing a toothbrush, look for soft, rounded bristles that clean teeth, but are gentle on gums. Kids two and up can use a pea-sized dot of toothpaste. Choose smaller toothbrushes for their smaller hands and mouths.
- Brush your teeth alongside your kids to set a good example and motivate them to brush their teeth twice a day. They will enjoy imitating you!
- Sing or play a song or recite a nursery rhyme for two minutes while they are brushing.
- Limit chewy, gooey snacks, such as raisins, fruit snacks, and candy as they can stick to teeth and increase the risk of tooth decay/cavities. Sodas and juices can wear down the enamel that protects the teeth. They can also cause acid buildup that leads to cavities.
- If your child has a loose tooth, wiggling it gently with clean hands is OK, but let the tooth come out on its own. Ask your dentist if the tooth begins to bother your child.
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
- American Dental Association
- “Dental Checkups Help Children Make the Grade.” Delta Dental
- “Healthy Smiles, Healthy Hearts.” Delta Dental
- “Making the Connection: Oral Health and Diabetes.” Delta Dental
- New York University College of Dentistry
Interested in bringing this topic to your school or organization?
Grade Level: 2nd – 3rd | Program Length: 45 minutes
You be the dentist! Practice tooth brushing and flossing on Mr. Big Mouth’s extra-large teeth. Pick healthy habits and nutritious snacks to prevent tooth decay. To help reinforce the importance of regular dental check-ups, volunteers will create a decay equation explaining how sugar and plaque lead to cavities.
For the Classroom: Healthy Teeth Science Experiment
Objective: For students to participate in hands-on activities that will lead them to good health conclusions
In-class time: 30-45 minutes
- 2 clear cups
- water and a dark soda (ex. root beer or cola)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs per group of students
- toothbrushes and toothpaste
1. Fill one cup with water and another with dark soda.
2. Have a student place one egg in the water container and another in the soda container.
3. Leave the eggs in containers overnight.
4. The next day, pour out the liquid in both containers and examine the eggs.
- How do the colors of each egg differ?
- Over time, which type of liquids do you think would be better for your teeth?
- Discuss the similarities egg shells have with our teeth and importance of brushing teeth.
– Egg shells and teeth have similar coatings, which make staining comparable.
– Just as eggshells protect eggs from breaking, tooth enamel protects teeth from decaying.
– The magic number for teeth is TWO. You want to brush your teeth at least 2 times a day for 2 minutes.
- Allow students to use a toothbrush and a little toothpaste to brush away some of the soda stains.
– Why do dark liquids stain teeth? Tooth enamel is a hard substance, but has pits and ridges where food and drink particles can get stuck. Dark-colored drinks can get into those cracks and stain the teeth, which over time could cause permanent yellowish stains. Brushing teeth regularly can help reduce or prevent teeth from staining.
For more dental health activities for the classroom, visit Smile Smarts Dental Health Curriculum .
- Healthy Teeth: Hands-On Science Activities. Education World.
- “Egg”stra Healthy Teeth. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- How Does Coffee Stain Teeth? Colgate Oral Care Center.