To create an awareness that teeth and gums need to be cleaned thoroughly each day.

Materials Needed:
Activity Page, "What We Use to Keep Clean"
Activity Page, "Finger Puppets" Parent Letter, "The Importance of Keeping Teeth and Gums Clean" Attachment to Parent Letter, "Nursing Bottle Mouth"

Background Information for the Teacher:
The teeth should be cleaned every day to remove plaque. Plaque is a soft, sticky, colorless film of bacteria and byproducts that forms 'on the teeth. The bacteria are most harmful when they have organized into colonies, which takes about 24 hours.

The bacteria in plaque are a major cause of tooth decay and gum disease. When foods containing sugars and starches are eaten, the bacteria produce acids and other irritants. The acids attack the tooth enamel for about 20 minutes. After many acid attacks, tooth decay may occur. The other irritants affect the gums, causing them to become swollen and bleed easily. Over a long period of time, untreated gum disease can destroy the bone that supports the teeth. Healthy teeth can become loose and fall out or may need to be removed.

Starting the Lesson:
Begin the lesson by reviewing with the children the reasons why teeth are important and what our teeth help us to do (smile, talk, chew). Give children an opportunity to sing one of the songs that they have learned about teeth.

A. Ask the children the following questions:

"When do you wash your hands?"

"Why do you wash your hands?" (Elicit from children responses such as "to clean off dirt" and "to remove germs.")

"Can you see dirt on your hands?" (Yes)

"Can you see germs on your hands?" (No)

"How do you clean your hands to get the dirt and germs off?" (Wash with soap and water.)

"Show me how you clean your hands." (Have children show motion of rubbing hands.)

"What would happen if you didn't wash your hands?" (Encourage responses such as you might get dirt in your food; you might get sick; a scratch or cut might not get better.)

Explain to children that we wash our hands to clean off the dirt and remove the germs even though we don't see the germs.

Another place where there are germs that we cannot see is in our mouth. These germs need to be cleaned off too.
  B. Ask children the following questions.

"How do you clean your mouth to get rid of the germs?" (Brush my teeth.)

"What do you use when you clean your teeth?" (Toothbrush and toothpaste.)

"What would happen if you didn't clean your teeth?" (Explain that just as we can get sores on our hands or get sick when we don't keep our hands clean, our teeth get sick and hurt if we don't keep them clean.)

Classroom Activities:
1. Matching Activity - Cut out and distribute the six boxes shown on Activity Page, "What We Use to Keep Clean" to each student. Have children match the item to be cleaned with the item used for cleaning. They may place the matched items side by side and glue the sets on construction paper.

2. Flash cards can also be constructed using the pictures on Activity Page, "What We Use to Keep Clean" by gluing the pairs back to back. When showing one side, you may give children the opportunity to tell what appears on the other side.

3. Game "Keeping Clean Charades" - Ask one student to act out one of the following activities:

Washing hair     Washing arms
Washing hands     Washing legs
Washing face     Washing ears
Brushing teeth     Washing neck
Washing feet     Taking a shower
Taking a bath     Washing tummy

Give other students a chance to guess the charade. The student who guesses what is being portrayed may be the next child to role play cleaning another part of the body. Continue this activity until all students who want to participate have had a chance.

4. "Simon Says" Using the same phrases as were used for the charade game, play a game of "Simon Says," having children make appropriate motions according to what "Simon Says."

5. Finger Puppet Story

Using Activity Page, "Finger Puppets," cut out and distribute finger puppets of "tooth" finger puppet and one "toothbrush and toothpaste" finger puppet for each child. To start the activity, the teacher should give examples of what his or her puppets would say to each other. For instance: Tooth Puppet, "I feel dirty, will you clean me?" Toothbrush and Toothpaste Puppet, "Yes, I'm good at keeping teeth clean." Give each child who volunteers an opportunity to create a puppet story by responding to the following:

"If the tooth could talk to the toothpaste and toothbrush, what would it say?"

"If the toothbrush and toothpaste could talk to the tooth, what would they say?"

Lesson Review,
Puppet Story:

Hi, boys and girls. I'm so happy to see all of you again. Today you learned about washing your hands and face. Who would like to tell me why we wash our hands and face? (To clean off dirt and to remove germs) Very good! Do you know that we can see dirt on our hands and face, but we can't see germs? Can someone tell me what could happen if we didn't wash our hands and face? (Dirt could get into our food; germs could make us sick.) That's right! Of course, we also wash all the other parts of our body too, such as our ears and neck. These are places where dirt and germs can hide.

Our teeth also need to be cleaned to remove food and the germs that are hiding there. Clean teeth are healthy and shiny. Who would like to tell me what we use to clean our teeth? (Toothbrush and toothpaste) Very good! We need to brush our teeth very carefully every day. I'm glad you know why we need to keep clean and brush our teeth every day. The next time we meet we're going to talk a lot more about brushing. Your teacher will even show you how to brush with your very own toothbrush. See you soon!


Parent Letter: "The Importance of Keeping Teeth and Gums Clean"

Dear Head Start Parent:

Today your child learned why it is important to clean teeth and gums daily to remove plaque. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria (germs) that constantly forms on the teeth. The bacteria make acids and other waste products that cause tooth decay and gum disease.

Because plaque forms every day, it must be cleaned off every day. If this is not done, it builds up and becomes more harmful. As you know, your child's baby teeth are very important and should be cleaned every day to keep them healthy.
We will be making sure your child is brushing every day at the Head Start Center and will be encouraging him or her to brush at home as well.

You can help your child by making sure that tooth brushing is part of the daily routine. Also, your own example of daily brushing and flossing would be another way to teach your child about the importance of cleaning teeth. If you have babies or young children who feed from a baby bottle, please be sure to read the page about Nursing Bottle Mouth that was sent with this letter.



Sometimes babies or young children who drink from a baby bottle develop a condition called "Nursing Bottle Mouth." Nursing bottle mouth is a dental condition that. can destroy the teeth of an infant or young child. The teeth most likely to be damaged are the upper front teeth, the ones that can make such a difference in your child's smile. But other teeth may also be affected by this condition.

Nursing bottle mouth is caused when liquids such as milk, formulas, juices, or sweet drinks pool around a child's teeth for long periods of time. This can lead to decay. That's why giving your child a bottle containing these liquids many times a day, as a pacifier, isn't a good idea. You also should not allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle during naps or at night, or else your child's teeth can be seriously harmed.

You can prevent this from happening to your child's teeth by protecting them in the following ways: