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Teachers: PSHE: Health influences

Last Updated: Tuesday January 24 2006 10:44 GMT

What's rotting your teeth?

PSHE 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Health influences


New research has shown that almost 40 per cent of five year olds in the UK are showing signs of tooth decay.

Sixteen year olds fared much better in the study though, revealing the best teeth in Europe!

Overall the figures showed that the average child has at least one tooth affected by decay.

Learning aims

  • Learn what factors contribute to tooth decay.
  • Learn what can be done to prevent tooth decay.


    Click below to read the story:

    Make a class list of the kinds of food which are likely to cause decay and discuss with students why teeth rot.
    Prompt: Acid produced in the mouth to break down food can begin to attack teeth within 20 minutes of a meal.

    Main activity

    worksheet answers:

    1 - H
    2 - B
    3 - G
    4 - E
    5 - J
    6 - D
    7 - I
    8 - C
    9 - F
    10 - A

    Role play in pairs. Student A is the dentist and student B the patient. B tells A about an imaginary tooth problem based on some of the above terms. A tells B what he/she could do to help prevent tooth decay. Prompts below

  • Clean teeth at least twice a day to prevent plaque build up.
  • Use a toothpaste containing fluoride.
  • Rinse out the mouth after eating sticky foods.
  • Have a dental check up every six months or every year.
  • Floss between teeth.

    Pairs present their prevention advice to the class.

    Extension activities

    Students carry out a survey of their classmates oral hygiene habits. Questions could include: How often do you brush your teeth? How many sugary drinks do you drink? etc

    Or this old classic

    Weigh two sheep teeth or copper coins. Place one into a glass of water and the other into a glass of Cola. Ask pupils to note the state of the teeth or coins. Look at them next lesson and make a note of any changes. Weigh the teeth or coins to see if there has been any decay.

    Teachers' background

    Tooth decay is caused by plaque collecting, in particular, around the gum line, the edges of fillings and the grooved surfaces of the teeth. Plaque is made up of food debris, saliva and bacteria normally present in the mouth.

    The acids generated by bacteria breaking food down can begin to attack tooth enamel within 20 minutes of a meal.

    If plaque is allowed to collect over time it will harden into tartar. Both tartar and plaque contain acids which, over time, can dissolve away the protective, hard enamel coating of the tooth, and create holes, or cavities.

    Most cavities form over a period of months, or even years. They are usually painless, but they can grow very large, and damage the much softer internal structures of the tooth such as the dentin and the pulp, which is found at the core.

    If they remain untreated, they can kill the nerve and blood vessels of the tooth, and ultimately the tooth itself.

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