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Lesson 5-Elaborate: What Keeps Your Mouth Healthy?



Activity 1: Let's Pretend—A Dramatization About Teeth, Bacteria, and Tooth Decay

The purpose of this activity is to help students visualize the oral disease process.

Note: Foods that contain sugars and starches can contribute to tooth decay. Almost all foods, even those that have important nutrients, contain some type of sugar or have sugar added to them during processing. Choosing nutritious foods helps promote overall good health, and brushing the teeth with fluoride toothpaste helps protect the teeth from decay.

Before beginning this activity, read through the entire dramatization so that you can visualize the roles you and your students will play. The number of students playing the different parts in this dramatization can be changed to allow all students to participate in some way.

In this dramatization, some students pretend to be bacteria and put sticky notes onto other students who pretend to be teeth. If you think this might cause problems, instruct the students to place sticky notes only on the backs of other children or cut out oversized images of teeth and have the " bacteria" place the sticky notes onto the paper teeth. The dramatization is more fun if children play the role of the teeth, but follow any school or district guidelines regarding student interactions of this nature.

National Science Education Standards iconContent Standard C:
Organisms and their environment.

1. Conduct the following dramatization with the students. Read the script as indicated and instruct students to carry out the actions.

Setting the Stage: Using red yarn, make a large outline of an open mouth on the floor of the classroom. The area should be large enough to hold up to 15 students at one time. Explain that the yarn outlines a mouth for the dramatization.

Gather students in a group area near the yarn mouth so that all can see and participate in the action, as appropriate.

Assign the following roles (modify for your class size):

Give each bacterium a pad of sticky notes. Give the collages of high- and low-nutrition foods to the appropriate students.

students standing in front of the classNote: The role of the toothbrush is somewhat complex in this dramatization so we think that it is best played by the teacher. Once students understand the actions of the toothbrush, you might assign the role to a student.

Script: Begin the activity by saying: Some of what happens in our mouths is impossible to see. Let's try to imagine what might be happening in our mouths by acting it out. We will start by putting some teeth in our mouth.

Action: Have the four student "teeth" stand close together in a semicircle.

Script: Continue the introduction by stating: We know that there are lots of bacteria in our mouths. Let's pretend that we can actually see the tiny bacteria that cause tooth decay. We don't have enough people in our class to show the real number of bacteria that live on and around our teeth. There are not enough people in our whole school to show that! We'll just remember that each person pretending to be one bacterium will represent a million tiny bacteria.

Action: Instruct the student "bacteria" to enter the mouth and to kneel, sit, or stand by the student "teeth." Tell them not to do anything until you give them a signal.

students covered in sticky notesScript: Explain the actions of the bacteria this way: Remember from the story that the bacteria produce acid. The sticky notes are like the acid and plaque that stick onto our teeth and cause tooth decay.

Action: Say Start and have the bacteria put sticky notes all over the teeth as fast as they can. After about 30 seconds or so, say Stop and ask the bacteria to be seated.

Script: Ask a student to apply a pea-sized amount of imaginary toothpaste to the whiskbroom that signifies a toothbrush. Now, hold up the whisk broom and say: When we brush our teeth with a toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, we make the teeth stronger and brush away some of the plaque. When we brush away plaque, we also brush away bacteria and the acid they produce.

Action: Enter the mouth and brush off some (but not all) of the sticky notes from the teeth. As you are brushing, brush one of the student bacteria out of the mouth, too. (There are now three bacteria in the mouth.)

teacher brushing sticky notes off her students

Script: When we eat foods that our body needs to be healthy, such as bread, milk, rice, cereal, fruits, and vegetables, the bacteria can use them to make acid and form plaque.

Action: Ask the "high-nutrition foods" student to "feed" the collage of high-nutrition foods to the mouth. (The student might place the collage inside the mouth or walk through the mouth while holding the collage.)

Script: These bacteria also make some new bacteria.

Action: Instruct one student bacterium that is currently in the mouth to walk out of the mouth and to choose another child to become a new bacterium. (This represents some reproduction within the bacterial colony, but not a lot.) Give the new bacterium a pad of sticky notes. There should now be four bacteria in the mouth.

When you say Start, all four bacteria continue to put sticky notes onto the teeth. After about 30 seconds, say Stop and ask the bacteria to be seated. (Encourage all students to notice what is happening to the teeth; they are being covered with acid.)

Script: When we snack on foods like candy, soft drinks, chips, and crackers, we aren't giving our body what it needs to be healthy. These foods also feed the bacteria so that they keep making acid.

Action: Ask the "low-nutrition foods" student to feed the collage of low-nutrition foods to the mouth. (Again, the student might place the collage inside the mouth or walk through the mouth while holding the collage.)

Script: And they also make more bacteria!

Action: Instruct each student bacterium that is in the mouth to choose one additional student from the class to become new bacteria. Give each new bacterium a pad of sticky notes. Now there should be eight bacteria in the mouth. Say Start and ask all eight bacteria to put sticky notes onto the teeth as fast as they can. After about 30 seconds, say Stop and ask everyone to observe what is happening to the teeth. Now there is more acid on the teeth.

Script: The more often we snack in between meals without brushing our teeth, the more time the bacteria have to coat our teeth with plaque and acid.

Action: Instruct two student bacteria that are in the mouth to choose two additional children from the class to become new bacteria. Give each new bacterium a pad of sticky notes. Now there should be 12 bacteria in the mouth. Say Start, and all 12 bacteria put sticky notes onto the "teeth" as fast as they can. After about 30 seconds, say Stop and ask everyone to observe what is happening to the teeth. Now there is A LOT of acid on the teeth.

Script: Brushing our teeth helps make them stronger and gets rid of bacteria and plaque.

Action: Have someone apply toothpaste to the imaginary toothbrush and enter into the mouth. Brush the teeth by taking a few strokes at each tooth. Also, brush eight bacteria out of the mouth. (Important note: As you brush, purposely leave a lot of sticky notes on one area of one back tooth. This represents a "hard to reach" place in our mouth.)

Script: If we snack often in between meals and we don't brush our teeth carefully with fluoride toothpaste, the acid begins to make a hole in the tooth. First, the acid attack makes a white spot on the tooth. (Indicate that the tooth has lots of attached sticky notes.)

Action: Tape the white circle over some of the sticky notes on that area of the tooth.

Script: These white spots don't always become cavities. But, if we continue to snack and not brush our teeth, the plaque and acid that build up begin to attack the tooth.

Action: Put the black blob of paper over the white circle. The black blob represents a cavity, or a rotten spot on the tooth.

Script: As you can see, some parts of our teeth are hard to reach with a toothbrush and do not get cleaned well enough. The bacteria that are left continue to make acid that eats away at the tooth. This is called a cavity (point to black blob).

One way we can protect those places is to have sealants put on our back teeth. Sealants protect our teeth like a helmet protects our head if we fall off a bicycle. A sealant covers the tooth and doesn't let the bacteria harm the tooth. Sealants can help protect against cavities.

Action: Ask a student who represents a back tooth to put a bicycle helmet on his or her head (alternatively, you can have the student hold an umbrella over his or her head). Leave the helmet on as the class repeats the dramatization. Draw students' attention to how the helmet protects the tooth from the acid (sticky notes). Show the students that the acid and plaque stick to the sealant (the helmet) and not to the tooth surface. The sealant protects the surface of the tooth from acid and, therefore, from decay.

2. Repeat the dramatization as long as students are interested and time allows. Discuss each action until students understand the process of decay and the importance of brushing their teeth regularly with toothpaste and limiting the number of snacks they eat.

Encourage students to suggest the actions they want to happen in the dramatization that might promote tooth decay (adding low-nutrition foods, adding snacks, not brushing) and the actions that might prevent tooth decay (limiting snacks, choosing high-nutrition foods, brushing the teeth). Help them relate the decay process to the actions of the bacteria by asking questions such as these:

3. Give students time to view the animation movie about how brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste and the application of sealants can protect their teeth from decay.

Web activity iconOpen the Web site in your browser. From the main page, click on Web Portion of Student Activities and choose either English, Español, or one of the accessible versions of the activities. The Student Activities window will open and the Exee Movie will play automatically. You can skip the animation by clicking the skip button. From the main menu in the Student Activities window, select What Keeps Your Mouth Healthy?

National Science Education Standards iconContent Standard F:
Personal health.

Take-home Activity: Brushing to the Beat!

Exee brushing to the beatIn this lesson, students complete the final take-home activity. Because the focus of this lesson has been on keeping the mouth healthy, the take-home activity shares information about oral health with parents and encourages parents and students to practice proper tooth brushing techniques.

1. Introduce the take-home activity to the students. Review the activity with the students and perform a demonstration, if appropriate, so that they know what is expected of them at home.

This take-home activity, Brushing to the Beat!, engages children and parents in proper brushing techniques, particularly with respect to the length of time they should be brushing. You might choose a song that students know and help them time the song and determine how many repetitions of the song fit into a two-minute period.

2. Point out the Certificate of Completion and inform students that you would like their parent or guardian to send the completed form back to school. The parent and child should keep the activity page at home to refer to again and again.

Encourage students to choose a different song at home with their parent, one that the parent likes too. The purpose of the activity is to promote parent-child interaction and not for the child to repeat exactly what she or he did at school.

assessment iconAssessment:
You can collect the Mouth Journals and assess your students' individual understanding of the concepts presented in the lesson. For Lesson 5, students should demonstrate an understanding of the actions that lead up to a cavity in a tooth and how the choices they make can stop or slow down those actions.

3. Send 1 copy of Master 5.1, Take-home Activity 3: Brushing to the Beat!, home with the students and wait for results!

When students return with the Certificate of Completion signed by their parent, ask them to share with other students the results of their activity. How many different brushing songs did the students in the class use?

Exee writingWrap-up

Instruct students to use their Mouth Journals to write or draw about what they learned in this lesson. Help them decide what to include by suggesting that they answer the question, "What would you tell Exee about the mouth now?"

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