Lesson Plans

Pre-K – 2nd Grade  •  3rd – 6th Grade  •  Where’s the Sugar?

Lesson Plan for Pre-K through 2nd grade

Download this Lesson Plan (PDF)

How you approach the material is really up to you, but here are the important points:

  1. Why are teeth important?
  2. Why and when do you brush your teeth?
  3. What’s a good snack and drink choice?
  4. Why do you visit a dentist?

Program Timing

(You’ll need a sugar kit for this lesson)

  1. 5 minutes – Intro, why do you have teeth
  2. 5 minutes – brushing
  3. 15 minutes – sugar and snacks
  4. 5 minutes – visiting the dentist, wrap up and thank-you!

Sample Program

  1. Get students thinking about why they have teeth. Ask them what they do with their teeth (smiling, talking and eating). How would they look or sound if they had no teeth. Have students say “hello”, then have them say “hello” by putting their lips over their teeth, to represent “no teeth.” What’s the difference? Ask why a baby eats baby food (they have no teeth!)
  2. Explain how most of them still have baby teeth – but they will soon get permanent teeth. Ask if someone knows what permanent means. Permanent means something that doesn’t go away. What else is permanent? (marker)
  3. Talk about the importance of taking care of your teeth – – it revolves around three things:
    1. Brushing
    2. Healthy food
    3. Regular visits to the dentistAsk what it means to take care of your body – what do you do? (take a bath, exercise, consume healthy food and drinks, wash your hands). You take care of your body to stay healthy – you take care of your teeth to keep them healthy. Explain in general terms how plaque is a germ that can stick to your teeth, it’s invisible and it can cause a cavity (a little hole in the tooth). Just like you wash your hands to get rid of germs – you clean your teeth to get rid of plaque. Plaque comes from foods – especially foods with sugar.
  4. Talk about what happens if you don’t take care of your teeth – cavities. Use the pea reference to show how much toothpaste you should use. Or relate it to the eraser on the top of a pencil. Stress the amount of time they should brush – not quickly! Two minutes is how long you should brush – use a timer or the class clock to help students understand how long two minutes really is!
  5. When do you brush? After breakfast and before bed. After school would be a bonus!
  6. Explain how another thing you can do to take care of your teeth involves what you eat and drink! Ask if anyone likes to snack! Maybe do a poll and ask students what they had for snacks after school yesterday – maybe do a show of hands for how many had candy, fruit, chips or cheese. Talk about what makes a “healthy snack”. Which snacks listed were healthy snacks? What makes a snack healthy? (Not too much fat, not too much sugar)
Bring out the sugar kit – explain how it’s important to understand snacks and drinks with lots of sugar can hurt your teeth over time. It’s important for students to understand that sweets are not off–limits, but you need to watch how often you eat them. Have students think about sticky snacks – things that can stick to your teeth and cause plaque. Sugar, starches and fat all play a role in tooth decay. Emphasize that sticky snacks are not a good choice. They stick to your teeth and can easily cause cavities.

Sugar experiment details

Remember this equation: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoonExplain how students will help you with a matching game. Bring out the test tubes of sugar and the kit items. Ask students if they can match the food or drink to the amount of sugar. You can do this as a group exercise or as a demonstration.

Stress to the class that you’re not telling them to never eat or drink sugary things – -but it can’t be what you always choose.

  1. Which items had the most sugar? Which had the least? Make sure to point out the Pop Tart and CapriSun box combination. That’s why kids often eat in a hurry for breakfast in the car – without brushing teeth!
  2. What’s a good snack choice? Use the snack poster for this! Come up with a list of good choices. Sticky snacks are the worst – they stick to your teeth, trapping sugar in your mouth!
  3. Make sure to talk about water – water from the sink has fluoride. Most bottled waters do not. If you do eat sweets, water is a good drink choice; it can wash away the sugar in your mouth.
  4. Ask what a dentist does. Relate a dentist to a doctor – just like the doctor checks your heart and lungs, a dentist checks your teeth, mouth and gums.
  5. Wrap up by reviewing – – get students involved.

Lesson Plan for Grades 3 – 6

Download this Lesson Plan (PDF)

Program timing:

(You’ll need a sugar kit for this lesson)

10 minutes – why teeth, brushing and flossing
15 minutes – sugar
5 minutes – dentist and mouth guards

Sample Program

  1. Explain how everyone is losing baby teeth now – getting permanent teeth. What does permanent mean? (lasts forever, not supposed to go away)
  2. Talk about the importance of taking care of your teeth – – it revolves around three things, brushing/flossing, healthy food and drinks and regular visits to the dentist.
  3. First, talk about care. Why do we need to take care of our teeth? To avoid cavities. Explain how plaque is a germ in your mouth; it’s always forming on your teeth. When you eat something sugary, the sugar is an acid that mixes with the plaque to form cavities or a hole. Brushing your teeth gets rid of plaque. Plaque comes from what we eat and drink – especially things with sugar. More on that later!
  4. Everyone should be brushing at least twice a day for two minutes. Focus on “how” to brush; stress the amount of time too. Reach far back into the mouth and brush the tongue. When you brush the outside of the top teeth – turn the brush up to a 45-degree angle and make small circles. When you brush the bottom teeth, turn the brush down to a 45 degree angle and make small circles. You have to brush the tops and bottoms of the teeth – in the back and the tongue.
  5. Flossing — children this age need to be flossing. Explain how the toothbrush gets food that’s on the outside of the teeth; but often food can get trapped on the inside. That can easily form a cavity. That’s why floss is important, it helps dislodge the food in between teeth.
  6. Sugar — this is the focus of the program. Remind students that sugar causes cavities. Most people associate sugar with what? Candy! But for most of us, we create problems not as much by candy but by snacks and drinks! Many of the things we choose are high in sugar. Do you brush your teeth after a snack? Probably not. Sugar attacks your teeth in 20 minutes to form a cavity.

The focus is brushing and snacks and drink choices. Students should understand how sugar helps to create a cavity and the food and drinks that contain high amounts of sugar.

  1. Explain how students will calculate the amount of sugar in their favorite items. Write this formula on the board: 1 teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams. Explain that it’s important to remember that number.
  2. Hold up a product from the sugar kit. Ask “where could you find the amount of sugar in this item?” (on the nutrition label). Have a student find the amount of sugar in an item you provide. Perhaps write it on the board – then have the class help determine the amount of teaspoons of sugar is in it Use the pre-filled tubes to illustrate the amount.
  3. It’s important to stress the differences between food and drink choices. Use the test tubes to compare the amount of sugar with Cheerios and milk and Honey Nut Cheerios and milk. Or look at Pop Tart and CapriSun vs. Pop Tart and water. We want students to understand that simple changes in what they eat can have a huge impact on their dental health and overall health.

Take a moment to talk about soft drinks. These are “extra special occasion treats” for kids. Not something you should drink every day.

Show again how much is in one (12 oz) bottle of soda. What if you had a bottle of soda every day for a week? How much sugar would that be?

If you drink one bottle of soda each day for a week, it’s 80.5 teaspoons of sugar and that’s over 1 1⁄2 cups of sugar!

What if you drink one 24-ounce soda each day? This 24-ounce soda contains 23 teaspoons of sugar. If you drink one 24-ounce soda each day for a week, that’s 161 teaspoons. There are 48 teaspoons in a cup so that’s 3 cups and 17 teaspoons of sugar each week, just from one 24-ounce soda a day. It’s more sugar than the 24-ounce bottle can contain (3 cups).

Note: 4 grams = 1 teaspoon 48 teaspoons = 1 cup

  1. Things to point out:
    1. Stress to the class that you’re not telling them to never eat or drink sweet things. But itcan’t be what you always choose
    2. If you have a sweet snack, water is a good choice. The water from a water companycontains fluoride – that helps protect your teeth. Water also can wash away some of thesugar in your mouth.
    3. Sticky snacks – gummies, fruit roll-ups. Dentists say these are the worst snacks for yourteeth. Why? The food sticks to your teeth and remember, sugar attacks in 20 minutes.

    What’s a good snack choice? Water, milk or real juice; fresh fruit and vegetables; peanut butter; sunflower seeds; cheese and crackers; peanuts; popcorn and pretzels. Yogurt is good – but watch the sugar.

  2. Ask what a dentist does. Relate a dentist to a doctor – just like the doctor checks your heart and lungs, a dentist checks your teeth, mouth and gums. That’s why many of you are getting a check-up today by a dentist.