Hesperian Health Guides

Why do we need teeth and gums?

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.

HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 4: School Activities for Learning about Teeth and Gums > Why do we need teeth and gums?

DENT Ch4 Page 37-1.png


Your teeth and the gums around them help you in many ways.

Teeth are important for:

Good Health. Infection from a bad tooth can spread to other parts of your body.

Good Looks. Healthy teeth that look good help you feel good.

Good Speech. Your tongue and lips touching the teeth help you make many sounds.

Good Eating. Your teeth break food into small pieces so that you can swallow and digest it better.

Good Breath. If you leave food around your teeth, your breath will smell bad.

DENT Ch4 Page 37-2.png

Your gums are important too. They fit tightly around the teeth, and help to keep them strong. Without strong gums, your teeth are of no use. Most old people lose teeth because of bad gums, not bad teeth.


  1. Draw or cut pictures of people from magazines. Make posters to show that healthy teeth make a person happy, while bad teeth make a person sad. Use the posters for discussion.
    a magazine cover showing a person's face; 2 front teeth are black.

    Hang up a picture of a person the students know and like. Put black on one of her front teeth. Talk about it.


    Leave the picture for a few days. Then put black on some of her teeth before the students come to school. See who notices first.

    When someone sees the difference, talk about how the person looks, how teeth can be lost, how to prevent that, and what she can do now.

    DENT Ch4 Page 38-1.png

    Make a picture of a person who has lost all of his teeth. He looks old.

    Talk about how hard it is for him to eat properly or speak clearly.

  2. Have the students say words that use teeth to make sounds.
    “v” and “f” — friend, fever — the lower lip touches the top teeth. “th” — the, teeth — the tongue touches the top teeth. “s” — sun — air goes between the teeth.
    DENT Ch4 Page 38-2.png

    Now, try saying the same words again, but do not let the tongue or lips touch the teeth.

  3. Have students draw pictures of good foods we use our teeth to eat. Then draw foods that we can eat if we lose our teeth.
    Need Teeth No Teeth Needed
    foods including chicken, maize, and mangos.
    a banana, a cup, and a soup bowl.
    and many more! but not much more!

    Talk about this together. Try to eat a mango or some maize without using your teeth, or using only your front teeth.

This page was updated:19 Feb 2018