Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about caring for teeth, dental health, and oral hygiene.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Caring for Teeth. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Proper oral hygiene is an important part of growing strong teeth and maintaining a healthy mouth. This movie will identify major parts of the teeth, including the root, crown, and enamel. It will also share tips on how to properly brush and floss teeth to remove plaque and clean and protect teeth. Different methods are suitable for different children, so we strongly recommend that children learn proper brushing and flossing from their dentists and learn the proper techniques that suit their needs. We also highly recommend that caregivers supervise as their children brush and floss to give feedback and instill healthy practices.

What are teeth? Have your children point to their teeth inside their mouths. If possible, have children wash their hands thoroughly and use a mirror to explore what is inside their mouths. Parts of the teeth are covered by gums, which are the pink, fleshy parts below or above teeth. The crown is the part of the tooth you can see, and the root is the part covered by the gums. Explain to your children that most of the tooth is actually the root, but it is just hidden under the gums. About two-thirds of the tooth is the root. The root grows into the jawbone and helps keep the tooth in place. Teeth are covered by enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body. Discuss with your children why enamel is so tough. Teeth help cut, grasp, tear, and chew food into small pieces that can be swallowed and digested. In fact, the digestive system begins at the mouth. For this reason, it is important to care for teeth and maintain good oral health.

Have your children eat a snack. As they chew explain that when they eat, tiny bits of food get suck on and between the teeth. Plaque is a soft, sticky substance that can form on teeth. Bacteria in plaque can cause problems if it is not removed. Over time, plaque can cause cavities to form. Remind your children that a cavity is a small hole that can form in the enamel and weaken it and cause pain or discomfort. However, brushing and flossing helps remove plaque and protect teeth. Dentists recommend that everyone brush at least twice a day, in the morning and before bed, and recommend brushing after eating meals or sweet snacks whenever possible.

There are different ways to brush teeth and children should work with their dentists to find the method that is right for them. In general, dentists recommend that children use toothbrushes with soft bristles. Only a small amount of toothpaste is needed, about the size of a pea. There are many different kinds of toothpaste on the market, and many contain fluoride, which can help strengthen teeth. Children and caregivers should ask the family dentist to choose the toothpaste that is right for them. To brush teeth, carefully place the toothbrush at an angle against the teeth. Then, gently brush using small circles. It is important to use a gentle, light motion. Pushing too hard can harm gums and teeth. Use small circles to brush the crowns of all the teeth, including the ones in the very back. Make sure to brush both the inner and outer sides of the teeth, as well as the backs of the front teeth. It should take about two to three minutes to properly brush teeth. Many children take just a few seconds to brush their teeth. We recommend using a timer or playing a song to make sure children brush for the right amount of time.

Dental floss is a special thin string used to clean between teeth. We recommend that caregivers help their children floss and supervise them to make sure they are using proper techniques. First take a piece of floss and hold it between your fingers. Then slowly move the floss back and forth as you slide it between your teeth. Curve the floss around each tooth and gently move it back and forth between the teeth and gums to remove debris and plaque. Make sure to floss between all your teeth, including the ones in the back. Explain to your children that their gums might bleed or feel a little sore after flossing the first few times. However, it gets easier as they floss more. Together, brushing and flossing help clean and protect teeth and gums.

While brushing and flossing are important parts of good oral hygiene, there are other things children can do to help keep their teeth and gums healthy. They can visit their dentist regularly to get check-ups. They can avoid sugary drinks and foods; sugar helps plaque grow and causes cavities to form faster. Children can also eat foods high in calcium, a mineral the body uses to grow strong teeth and bones. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as dark green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, are high in calcium.

Help your children understand that they will use their teeth everyday for the rest of their lives, so it’s important to take care of them. Teach and encourage your children to practice good oral hygiene to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Filed as:  Caring For Teeth, Health, K-3, Teeth