Dental health is a crucial component of overall health. Unfortunately for parents, tooth brushing is not a preferred activity for many children. Teach your child about the harmful effects of tooth decay with a few simple but engaging activities. She'll be running for her toothbrush in no time.
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Learn about the process of tooth decay with your child. Plaque is constantly forming on teeth, leaving a sticky film. Ask your child what his teeth feel like when he first wakes up in the morning. Do they feel sticky, yucky or furry? That feeling is the plaque that builds up overnight. When your child eats sugar, or starches that turn into sugar, the plaque and sugar mix to form an acid. The acid can make little holes in teeth, also known as cavities. The lesson for your child? Limiting sugar and brushing off the plaque reduce the two causes of tooth decay and cavities.
Boil an egg for a hands-on lesson in tooth decay. Give the egg to your child and ask her to feel the egg and then her own teeth. Do they feel similar? Do they both have a hard white surface? Now ask her to put the egg in a container of vinegar, submerging it. Vinegar is an acid, like the acid that forms on teeth when sugar and plaque combine. What does she think will happen to the egg when it sits in the vinegar? Ask her to make predictions. Leave the egg in the vinegar overnight. Let your child open the jar and remove the egg. The shell should be gone and the egg should be a yellow color. Encourage your child to make connections between the egg and her teeth. If the acid broke down the shell of the egg, what will it do to teeth?
Help your child visualize a cavity with a simple experiment. Take a firm apple without any bruising or discoloration. Let your child poke a hole into the side of the apple with a nail. Put the apple in a brown paper bag, close the bag and leave it alone for three weeks. When it is time, let your child take the apple out of the bag. The apple should look relatively unchanged from when it was put in the bag. Now cut the apple in half through the hole. What does your child see? The apple should have brown discoloration spreading through the inside from the hole. While the hole in the apple didn't look like much, "decay" was spreading through the inside. Cavities might be small on the outside, but the longer they are left, the more damage they will do inside your teeth.
Tooth decay can happen anywhere on a tooth, including the surfaces between teeth. Illustrate the importance of flossing with this fun and messy activity. Put a disposable glove on your hand and ask your child to smear peanut butter in between your fingers. Tightly close your fingers to simulate teeth. Ask your child to use a toothbrush to clean the peanut butter off of your "teeth." How effective is the toothbrush? Now give him a piece of floss and let him use it to remove the peanut butter from your fingers. How effective is the floss?