Dental hygiene can be taught from an early age. It’s an important lesson for preschool-aged children to learn because it starts good habits early. Through demonstration and a hands-on approach, you can familiarize children with appropriate ways to keep their teeth clean and healthy.
Teach With Music
According to PBS.org, singing enhances learning because it helps people focus more clearly, boosts their mood and makes learning more sensory and active. Use a song like “Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth,” sung to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” to help the children remember the lesson: Brush, brush, brush your teeth. At least two times a day. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, Fighting tooth decay. Rinse, rinse, rinse your teeth Every single day. Swishing, swishing, swishing, swishing, Fighting tooth decay.
You can also teach the children the “I Have a Little Toothbrush” chant: I have a little toothbrush. I hold it very tight. I brush my teeth each morning, And then again at night.
Using a model of teeth, show the preschoolers how to move the toothbrush in a gentle, circular motion, brushing one or two teeth at a time. Show them how to brush all the way up to the gums, making sure you get the back as well as the front of the teeth. Teach the children that they can work in patterns, such as starting at the top and working their way to the bottom, or vice versa. Let each preschooler come up to the model and show the rest of the class how to brush teeth.
For a hands-on activity, let the preschoolers practice using real toothbrushes. Give each preschooler a section of plastic or Styrofoam egg carton, turned so the round side is facing up to look like really large teeth. Also hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste. Help each child put a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the brush and gently brush the egg carton. Rinse the cartons in buckets of water. You can also put some purple, red or green paint on the cartons to represent juice or food, and have the preschoolers brush off the paint to get the teeth clean. As an alternative, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control suggests giving children a piece of gray or brown paper with an outline of teeth on it. Ask the children if the teeth look clean or dirty. Hand out toothbrushes and white paint, and instruct the preschoolers to brush the teeth with the paint until they look clean.
Another important part of dental hygiene is watching what you eat, and making sure you brush your teeth after meals to prevent tooth decay. Hold up an egg and tell the preschoolers to pretend it is a tooth. Ask what they think would happen if you put it in a jar of soda overnight. Try an experiment that shows how different liquids affect teeth. Put one egg in a jar of soda, another in vinegar and a third in orange juice. Leave them overnight and show your preschoolers what happened. Use a toothbrush to see if you can get the eggs clean. The vinegar will eat the shell, and the orange juice will make the shell bumpy; the toothbrush will not help these eggs. The soda will stain the egg, though you might be able to clean off some of the staining with the toothbrush. Explain that brushing your teeth after eating helps prevent this kind of damage.
- PBS.org: Boost Memory and Learning With Music
- Child Care Lounge: Dental and Tooth Theme and Activities
- South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control: Oral Health: Teacher Activities for the Early Childhood Classroom
- Teach Preschool: Toothbrush Water Play in Preschool
- Teach Preschool: National Dental Health Month: Let's Brush Our Teeth!
- Andres Arango/Demand Media