A young child’s natural curiosity makes preschool a fantastic time to introduce and reinforce good dental health practices. Preschool lessons encouraging hands-on dental health explorations, from the mouth’s anatomy to visiting the dentist, can answer your preschoolers' questions about teeth and can contribute to optimum oral health over a lifetime.
Importance of Teeth
You can begin a preschool unit on dental health with activities stressing the important role of teeth. Ask your preschoolers to brainstorm uses of teeth, such as chewing or talking, and then ask how we would perform those activities without teeth. For example, to demonstrate how heavily talking relies on teeth, you could give older preschoolers a sentence to read aloud, but ask that they not use their teeth to create sounds. You can also emphasize oral anatomy by having your preschoolers take an oval piece of paper folded in half to resemble a jaw, lining the perimeter with miniature marshmallows to represent teeth, then coloring in the center to illustrate a tongue. With this model, preschoolers can simulate chewing or brushing as they make connections with the structures in their own mouths.
Activities reinforcing the importance of brushing teeth are also beneficial. Demonstrate why teeth need to be brushed by placing a few drops of food coloring in several tablespoons of water, then asking a preschooler to swish this solution in his or her mouth. After spitting it out, the child can then look in a mirror to observe the colored patches on her or his teeth, indicating the presence of plaque. After explaining that plaque build-up is bad for teeth because it leads to decay, have the preschooler brush his or her teeth and re-swish with the solution, revealing how cleaning the teeth rid them of plaque. You can also encourage preschoolers’ enjoyment for brushing their teeth by teaching them songs or rhymes they can recite before or during brushing.
Explore healthy habits for teeth that can help prevent tooth decay. For example, in addition to encouraging regular brushing, you can demonstrate flossing or discuss the benefits of good nutrition. Reinforcing what preschoolers should and should not put in their mouths can also encourage good dental health. Demonstrate this distinction by making a cut-out image of a mouth, then making additional images of various edible objects, such as fruits or ice cream, and inedible objects, such as coins or jewelry. As you go through each object, explain how by paying attention to what goes in their mouths, they can contribute to both good nutrition and the prevention of injuries, such as chipped teeth or damaged gums.
Activities demonstrating the importance of dentist’s visits can round out your dental health unit. You can ask those who have visited the dentist to share their experiences, such as what special tools they saw or who they met in the dentist’s office. Invite a dentist visit your class to answer the children’s questions, or initiate a role-playing activity where your preschoolers act out a visit to the dentist.
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