A Kids Guide to Oral Health

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Starting with the first tooth that comes in, oral health is important to a person’s overall health. Dental disease is the most widespread recurring disease found in childhood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of children age 2 through 5 had untreated dental cavities in the period from 2001 to 2004, and 23% of children ages 6 to 19 had untreated dental cavities during the same time period. Left untreated, dental problems and diseases may lead to problems in eating, learning to speak, and even in sleeping.

Fortunately, there is something we can do to prevent problems before they begin. Eating right and practicing good oral habits such as brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist twice a year can prevent cavities and other dental problems. Having a healthy smile is not only important to the overall health of one’s body -- it is also cosmetically pleasing and increases a person’s self-confidence. If children start out with good dental habits, they will have a beautiful, healthy smile that will carry into adulthood. In this article, you will learn about the structure of the mouth and teeth, how to care for your teeth to prevent cavities and other dental problems, what to eat and what to avoid in order to have healthy teeth, the importance of braces and other cosmetic dental enhancers, and more about maintaining one’s oral health.

Teeth and Gums

Babies have a full set of 20 teeth once all of their first teeth come in. As baby teeth fall out and they are replaced by permanent teeth, we end up with a full set of 32 teeth. Teeth are made up of pulp, dentin, enamel and cementum. We have various types of teeth, including incisors in the front of the mouth, canines on the sides, four premolars behind the canines, and a total of 12 molars behind the premolars. All of these teeth help us to be able to chew different kinds of foods.

  • About Your Teeth: Sponsored by Scholastic’s “Magic School Bus,” this site offers kids a diagram of their baby teeth and permanent teeth. It also discusses types of teeth and bacteria on the teeth.
  • Mouth and Teeth: Sponsored by KidsHealth from Nemours, this site describes the role of mouth and teeth in overall bodily health.
  • Kids Stuff: Sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, this site describes the parts of the tooth. It also details the different types of teeth found in the mouth.
  • All About Teeth: This site from the United Kingdom describes types of teeth, the purpose of teeth, plaque, braces, and more topics concerning teeth.
  • Teeth: This United Kingdom site discusses the types of teeth and their purpose.
  • Your Mouth and Teeth: Sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, this site discusses the purposes of the teeth and other structures in the mouth.
  • Teeth and Eating: This site from the United Kingdom describes the types of teeth, how teeth develop, how to care for teeth and how teeth in other animals are similar to or different than ours.
  • Tooth Anatomy: This site provides a diagram of a human tooth and describes the parts of the tooth and the purpose of each.
  • Landie and the Loose Tooth: This site features a bedtime story about a girl with a loose tooth.
  • Teeth Facts: Sponsored by Idaho Public Television, this site describes basic facts about teeth, including kinds of teeth, purpose of teeth, and how to keep teeth healthy.

Brushing and Flossing

Tooth brushing and flossing are both extremely important in maintaining the health of one’s teeth and mouth. Dentists recommend that we brush at least twice a day, but most importantly after meals, and to floss our teeth at least once daily. Brushing our teeth properly and for the correct length of time is also important. Keeping one’s teeth brushed and flossed will help ward off dental problems such as cavities.

  • The Magic School Bus – Brushing Up: Sponsored by Scholastic’s “The Magic School Bus,” this site, which requires Shockwave to display properly, offers an interactive game about brushing one’s teeth.
  • Kids Health Topics – Teeth: Sponsored by Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service of South Australia, this site describes parts of a tooth and tells kids how to properly care for (brush and floss) their teeth.
  • Kids Corner – Floss.com: This site describes plaque and why it’s important to brush and floss one’s teeth. It also offers a tooth brushing game for kids.
  • Why You Should Brush and Floss Your Teeth: Sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Health, this site offers a kids’ crossword puzzle on brushing and flossing.
  • The Smilestones Teeth Cleaning Game: This site provides an interactive game about brushing teeth. Kids have to attack germs with the toothbrush on a computerized mouth.
  • Putting the Squeeze on Toothpaste: This article for kids describes how toothpaste is made, and the different types of toothpaste available on the market.


Dental cavities develop when bacteria attaches to the enamel of the tooth, forming what is called plaque. You may not know you have a cavity until it’s too late, and it starts to hurt, as the cavity attacks tooth enamel and the pain takes a while to get to the tooth’s nerve. By that point, you have tooth decay, and your cavities have to be filled by a dentist in order to fix them. You might even need a root canal, if the decay or infection damages the root of your tooth. Fortunately all of these problems can be prevented through the use of fluoride, proper brushing and flossing

  • Children’s Cavity Risk Quiz: This site from Delta Dental provides an interactive quiz about a child’s risk of cavities.
  • What Causes a Cavity?: This animated site describes how cavities are caused and how they form.
  • Root Canal Therapy: Sponsored by Dental Associates for Kids, this site describes root canal therapy and its place in children’s dentistry.
  • How Does Fluoride Work?: This animated site describes how fluoride works to prevent dental cavities.
  • Simple Steps to Dental Health: Sponsored by Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, this site offers activities, games and more for kids about dental cavities and how to care for their teeth.

Diseases and Prevention

Other problems can occur in the teeth and gums in addition to cavities. Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, is usually caused by improper or not thorough brushing of the teeth. It can lead to periodontitis, a more advanced form of gum disease. These diseases can be prevented through proper brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly.

  • Bad Breath: Produced by Discovery Kids, this animated, interactive site describes the cause of bad breath and how to prevent this phenomenon.
  • Gingivitis: This Australian website describes what gingivitis is, how it is caused, symptoms, prevention, and treatment in language kids can understand.
  • Protecting Your Mouth: This article describes in kid-friendly language how to protect one’s mouth and teeth from injury, especially during sports.
  • Children and Gum Disease: Sponsored by the American Academy of Periodontology, this site describes the types of periodontal disease commonly found in children.

Braces and Other Cosmetic Solutions

Sometimes when our teeth come in, they are not perfectly straight. This can also result from sucking one’s thumb or heavy use of a pacifier as an infant and toddler. Teeth that are not aligned properly can cause many problems, including jaw pain, problems in chewing or talking, infections of the mouth, and difficulty cleaning the teeth. Crooked teeth can be fixed through braces and other cosmetic procedures.

  • TV Show Excerpt: Braces: This transcription from the kids’ television show, “Kids Healthworks,” offers an interview with an orthodontist about braces and when and why kids need them.
  • Yo, It’s Time for Braces: This ThinkQuest site has many sections, including Deciding to Get Braces, What Happens at the Orthodontist’s Office, and Living with Braces.
  • Brace Color Selector: This interactive site allows kids to change the color of animated braces on a diagram.
  • Why Do People Need Braces?: This site explains in language kids can understand why people need braces.
  • American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Tips for Kids: Sponsored by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, this site provides dental tips for kids to help them avert the need for cosmetic dentistry.

Cutting Out Sugar and Other Harmful Foods

Sugars found in the foods we eat attack the enamel of our teeth. This can lead to bacteria and plaque formation, which leads to cavities if teeth are not properly brushed, flossed and maintained through dental visits. Not only sugar but also acids found in foods can damage the tooth’s enamel and even stain one’s teeth. Choosing the right foods and limiting one’s intake of sugar can help to prevent these types of problems.

  • How Much Sugar are You Really Eating?: This site provides an interactive experiment for kids to show them how much sugar is in the foods they eat and how detrimental it can be to the health of their teeth.
  • Coolfood kidz: This site provides interactive games and activities about healthy foods for the teeth and the rest of the body.
  • Smart Mouth: Sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, this interactive site provides games, videos and other activities about healthy foods and how they affect the teeth and body.
  • Healthy Foods: Sponsored by the DuPage County Health Department, this site offers a game for kids to help them identify healthy foods.
  • Snack Smart for Healthy Teeth: Sponsored by the National Institute of Health, this site describes how sugars affect teeth and healthy alternatives to help prevent tooth decay.

More Educational Information

There is a wealth of information that can be found on the Internet to teach kids about proper dental techniques to maintain good dental health. Games, quizzes and other activities make such learning fun. Lesson plans for teachers to use in class which focus on dental health are also available. Through making learning about dental health exciting and interesting, children sometimes have so much fun that they don’t even realize they’re learning at the same time.

  • Let’s Talk Teeth: This site provides a lesson plan in which students make a model of a tooth.
  • MouthPower Online: This interactive game features “Mouthy,” an animated mouth who leads kids through activities to discover how to have a healthy mouth.
  • Dental Quiz: This site offers an interactive dental quiz, with questions such as “how many primary teeth are there?” and answers provided.
  • Music & Songs for Dental Health: This site provides music and songs about dental health, giving the full lyrics to each song.
  • Colgate Games & Activities: Sponsored by Colgate, this site features interactive dental games and activities about teeth and keeping them healthy.
  • Teeth- Online Word Search Puzzle: Sponsored by Atlantic View Elementary School, this site provides an online word search all about teeth.
  • Stay Away Tooth Decay: This lesson plan involves teaching kids about which foods are good for their teeth and which cause tooth decay.


Paediatric Dentists around Australia


Dentists around Australia


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