Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 4: School Activities for Learning about Teeth and Gums
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We can help school children in two ways. First, they need treatment now for problems they already have. Second, they need to learn how to prevent problems from hurting them (and their families) later.
Treatment and prevention go together. It is a mistake to emphasize only prevention and to forget about treatment. In fact, early treatment is the first step to prevention because it usually meets a person’s most strongly felt, immediate need.
As a community dental worker, you can visit a school and find out what the felt needs are. Begin with the teacher. Examine for cavities, bleeding gums, or other problems. Then look at the students.
Chapter 6 tells you how to examine a person. It also helps you decide what treatment to give, and who should give it.
Then teach how to prevent dental problems. Give the teacher ideas to help students learn why they have problems, and how to keep the problems from returning. The best way to learn is by doing — through activities, not lectures. This chapter has many suggestions for activities.
The best health practice is to prevent cavities and gum disease from even starting. With these activities, children can do something to guard their health.
Teacher, each day at school:
Give your students time to clean their teeth.
A Note To Teachers:
Do not wait for a dental worker. This book, and especially this chapter, is written to help you learn and do things yourself. But do ask your dental worker to work with you. He probably has suggestions that would fit your situation. After examining the children, he can help you follow their progress. You can then find out how much they are learning and how healthy they are becoming.
To begin, talk with your students to find out what they think and what they already know. What are their traditional beliefs? Some may be helpful, and others may need changing. At first it is best simply to discuss.
Ask the kind of questions that get students talking. Later they will take part in discussions more easily.
Add new information as you go along, changing some ideas but usually building upon what the students already know.
This chapter asks nine questions:
- Why do we need teeth and gums?
- Why do some teeth look different?
- What holds the teeth?
- How often do teeth grow in?
- What makes teeth hurt?
- How do germs make holes in the teeth?
- What makes the gums feel sore?
- What does it mean if a tooth is loose?
- How can we prevent cavities and sore gums?
For each question, there is an activity to help students discover answers for themselves. The questions are not in any particular order, nor are they written for any particular grade level. Make your own lesson plan, using the main idea to help you. Shorten the lesson and make it easier for younger children. Add more information for older students and let them do more activities.