Explaining tooth decay to your kids

It has been ingrained in our brains since we first sat in a dentist’s chair–cavities are bad. We’re taught how to prevent them, and we dread it when we’re told we have to get a filling. But what does the word cavity mean to a kid?

Helping your kids understand what exactly a cavity is, how it’s formed and how to prevent one can encourage them to become more proactive about their dental hygiene.

Here are some tips on how to explain tooth decay to your child.

-Use an example: For many, the best way to learn a complicated concept is through a relatable example. Simplify the idea of a cavity without using words like enamel or acid. Instead, explain that if we don’t brush or floss, the food we eat will get stuck in our teeth and “sugar bugs” will eat away at it and form tiny holes.

-Use visuals: A tooth has several layers that aren’t visual to the naked eye. Find a diagram that shows each layer and names each part, including enamel, dentin, pulp and root. Visualizing the anatomy of a tooth can help kids understand how cavities form. You can also look online for streaming videos and interactive photos to explain the process of tooth decay.

-Create an experiment or art project: After explaining the basics, try a hands-on approach. There are lots of experiments to try available on the internet, like this one that uses an egg and vinegar: http://www.crest.com/en-CA/crest-kids/eggsperiment.aspx

If you’re looking for something simpler, have your kid draw their own tooth diagram, or draw a picture of a healthy tooth versus one with a cavity.

-Let your child teach you: After your child has a good understanding of what tooth decay is, reverse the roles and have them teach it to you. Role-play and pretend that they’re the dentist, teaching their new patient the basics of healthy teeth.