Field Work Friday – Dental Hygiene

This week we were visited by Pat, a dental hygienist for a local pediatric dentist.  That might not sound too exciting, but Pat brought along Ally the Alligator and shared lots of good tips for caring for your teeth.

Pat talked to us about how important it was to brush our teeth each morning and before bedtime, and that taking care of our gums is crucial.  She told us that dentists recommend that children spend 6 minutes each evening on dental hygiene, both brushing and flossing, and that parents should be involved until age 10.  Pat also showed us how to brush in small circles, not scrubbing, on each tooth, and then brushing downwards three times while singing, “Wiggle, jiggle, wiggle, jiggle, 1, 2, 3” and then moving on to the next one.  She let each child practice on Ally – though Luke was a big shy of her big smile.

After Pat left we concluded a science project to demonstrate just how important it is to brush.

Start with a jar (I’d recommend a wide-mouth one), an egg, a tube of toothpaste, and some vinegar.  I’ve used both cider and white for this – both work fine.

Squeeze out the tube of toothpaste into the jar. Try not to get any on the sides.  I realize that this seems like a lot, but it takes a lot for this to work – and it’s a very visual demo of why brushing and toothpaste is important.

Next, nestle the egg into the toothpaste nest at the bottom.  Bury half of the egg in the toothpaste and let the other half sticking out, hopefully toothpaste-free (this is why a wide-mouth jar is important – my hand didn’t fit in there well!).

Using the egg as a target so that none of the toothpaste washes away, slowly pour vinegar into the jar on top of the egg.  Fill the jar to about an inch past the top of the egg.

Let the jar sit for 2-5 days.  I wouldn’t wait much longer than that, but it will take a few days for the magic to happen.  When the egg is ready, you should see that lovely cloud of bubbles at the top of the egg.  Again, be sure to wait a few days!  Just set it on a shelf somewhere and watch what happens while the vinegar works.

When it’s time, pour out the vinegar and rescue the egg.  Holding it carefully, wipe away or wash under a gentle spray of water to remove excess toothpaste.

Your egg will now look like this!  The vinegar, an acid, has eaten away at the shell of the egg, which is made of protein.

If you consider the eggshell to be like the enamel on your teeth, you can see what plague will do to the finish of your teeth.  Be sure to carefully tap your fingernail on the white shell – see how hard and firm it still is?  Didn’t the toothpaste do a great job of protecting it from the tough plague germs?

Then try to tap the soft brown top.  The shell is gone, leaving only the outer membrane.  Pushing gently, you can actually push into the egg – it’s that soft.  Who wants a tooth that looks like this?!!  I think I’ll brush!

Disclaimer:  As this entire project is done with a raw egg, dispose of egg carefully when finished.  I’ve never broken one in nearly 10 years of doing this project, so the eggs are tougher than they look – but I’m sure it’s still possible, and I know they won’t smell pretty if they break.  🙂

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