National Dental Hygiene Month Lessons

Learning about dental hygiene can be interesting with lessons that explore math, science, and the vocabulary of dentistry.

By Debra Karr


Have you heard about National Dental Hygiene Month? Well, now is the time. As we embark upon that "healthy teeth" spirit, these next couple of lessons will help us incorporate language arts and writing standards with health lessons, ensuring knowledge about sound dental hygiene, tooth decay prevention, and dental "divinity".

Start a lesson warm up with a little bit of history. Inform students that during the Middle Ages, if a person had a bad, decayed tooth, it would just be plucked out without medicine or pain-numbing technology. Ouch. Ask students what we have done since the Middle Ages to prevent tooth decay, and give them five minutes to write their answers down. Have students list these possibilities on a piece of paper. When the five minutes is up, have students read their answers, as you write them on the board, overhead or LCD. Discuss their answers as a class. This is a nice segue into any of the following lessons that focus on sound dental practices for optimum dental health.

The following lessons are in alignment with various content area standards from math ("2 out of three dentists recommend"), to health, to language arts, to history and social studies. The lessons are perfect for National Dental Hygiene Month, and can easily lead to discussions pertaining to brushing teeth, tooth decay, and overall dental hygiene. It's also a nice idea to have an "exit ticket" after each lesson that summarizes the day's lesson and reinforces the learning for greater retention. As an example, after a lesson in dental health comes to a close, ask students to write down three ways to help prevent tooth decay on their "exit ticket".

Dental Health Lesson Plans:

Will Sucking Your Thumb Really Give You Buck Teeth?

In this lesson students will decipher between "old wives tales" and actual health-related science by first listing the tales ( "Thumb sucking causes buck teeth", "feed a cold starve a fever"), deciding which ones are health related, and then determining what a superstition really is. Students read an article that discusses this topic and then they answer questions that expose the fallacies inherent within each wives tail after scientific investigation. I would only focus on a maximum of two wives tales that are health related. For National Dental Hygiene Month, I would obviously choose the "thumb sucking causes buck teeth" wives tale. Using diagrams or pictures would be beneficial in starting this lesson.

Your Trip to the Dentist

At the beginning of this lesson students have five minutes to recall and write about an experience with a dentist. Later, they read an article about the declining dental health of some populations, and finally they break off into groups and design pamphlets that encourage younger children to take care of their own personal, dental health. Having a pre-lesson that introduces dental vocabulary such as: "decay" "caries"," pediatric", "substantiates", "prevalent", "severity", "sealant", "trended"," disproportionately",  and "disparities", will give students the opportunity to define these words, use them in sentences, and make them a part of their own vocabulary so that when it comes time to do this lesson, the words won't seem so unfamiliar or intimidating.

How the Carnivore Was Cultivated

Students discover the definition of "carnivore" in this lesson, and research how the carnivore is categorized by its teeth. Students will compare and contrast carnivores and herbivores. They read an article that discusses the carnivore's evolution, and answer questions such as "How has this species of animal modified its behavior, way of life, or diet to adapt to encroaching commercial civilization?" I think this lesson exposes students to the process of evolution. To further enhance this study, and honor Dental Hygiene Month have students research the effects of eating meat on human teeth by writing a research paper on the topic. This will take more than one lesson to accomplish but can serve as a supplement to this lesson.

Surveys for Smiles

This lesson teaches students how to calculate the "4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommended this brand" advertising line that's familiar in some popular toothpaste advertisements. As students survey twenty different people they learn how to construct a percentage graph, bar chart, and frequency table that defines and illustrates their results. Students will create presentations based on their mathematical findings. This lesson deals with many different consumer products, Dental Hygiene Month, and toothpaste and how it helps to prevent tooth decay. It provides topic ideas for the charts and presentations students give during this lesson.


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Debra Karr