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Take Care of Your Teeth and Keep Them for Life (lesson plan)


Students will use Molenaer’s The Dentist to compare dental health in the past to dental health today. They will learn that taking care of their teeth and visiting the dentist will lead to good dental health. Students will reimagine The Dentist if it were painted today and create public health projects to encourage K-3 students to practice good dental hygiene.

Created by A+ Schools of NC

Grade Levels
2nd Grade
NC Standards Correlations
Healthful Living
2.PCH.1, 2.PCH.1.1, 2.PCH.1.2
Visual Arts
2.V.1.2, 2.V.1.3, 2.V.2.2, 2.V.2.3
2.CX.1.2, 2.CX.2.2, 2.CX.2.3
English Language Arts
RL.2.1, RL.2.7
W.2.2, W.2.3
Social Studies

Artwork Related to this Lesson

Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students can recall the benefits of good dental health.
  2. Students can name ways to have healthy teeth and gums.
  3. Students can explain the importance of brushing and flossing.
  4. Students can demonstrate proper techniques for brushing and flossing.
  5. Students can create art from real sources of information that expresses an idea.
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1. Present students with the painting The Dentist (do not tell them the title yet) and ask them: What’s the story in this painting? Remind them that “the story” includes the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. As students share their ideas, have them point out details in the painting that support their statements.

2. Ask students to brainstorm titles for the painting based on “the story” they see.

3. Share the actual title and the artist along with some background information.

Investigate and Create

4. Ask students:

What is a dentist? What do dentists do?

If you know the artist painted scenes of daily life, why do you think he chose to paint a dentist?

5. Have students turn and talk with a partner to briefly share their experience (or any background knowledge they have) of a trip to the dentist. In their retelling of the event, remind them to include the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.

6. Ask students: How do artists convey how someone pictured in a painting feels? Return to the painting and have students study the people’s facial expressions and body language more closely. Ask: How do you think each person is feeling and what might they be thinking?

7. Share with students some of the history of dental care during the time of Molenaer’s painting: 

Worems in the Teeth

History of Dentistry

Ask students: How does this information reinforce or change your ideas about the painting?

8. Compare and contrast the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of students’ dental visits with the painting. Ask students: If we were to paint a picture of a dental visit today, what things would change? What would remain the same? 

9. Ask: Would this painting cause you to want to visit the dentist? Why or why not? Tell students they will create a collaborative art poster that will portray a positive experience and cause people to want to visit the dentist.

10. Have students work in groups of 4 to do a collaborative drawing of child visiting the dentist. They may include details from their dental visit stories. Remind them that the viewer should be able to tell how the people shown in their drawings are feeling. 

11. Ask: What are some ways that we can help the dentist to take care of our teeth and be sure that we have positive dentist visits? Possible answers include:

  • Brush and floss 
  • Eat the right foods
  • Visit the dentist regularly

12. Give each student ½ of a styrofoam egg carton (one row of six) turned upside down in a styrofoam tray (or the top of the egg carton) to represent a row of teeth. Have them put playdough between the teeth to represent tartar and use a cotton swab dipped in thin paint, dot “plaque” on the teeth. Have students use toothbrushes to practice proper brushing techniques as you demonstrate. Students can use yarn or string to practice proper flossing techniques. 

13. Have students read informational texts about good dental health and/or show one or more videos about good dental health.

14. Using information gained from discussion, books, and videos, students will work with their group to write an informational paragraph about good dental health. They may want to include information about one or more of the following:

  • proper brushing and flossing techniques
  • healthy and unhealthy foods for teeth
  • how to keep our teeth healthy
  • ways to prevent cavities
  • what to expect at a dentist visit


Students will present their poster and their paragraph to the class. The audience will complete a 3, 2, 1 summary (3 things I liked or learned about, 2 things that I wonder, and 1 suggestion) for each of the presentations.


Written by A+ Fellow Lisa Milliken


Class discussions, student posters, information paragraphs, and presentations can be used to assess student understanding.

Lesson Resources

Teacher background: 

Teachers should familiarize themselves with the work of art and its background information. 


  • Dentist
  • Dental assistant or dental hygienist
  • Tooth decay – the breaking down of enamel on your tooth, caused by plaque 
  • Plaque – sticky, film-like substance of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth
  • Tartar – when plaque and minerals calcify and form a hard substance on your teeth
  • Cavities
  • Public service announcement


  • Copy of the painting or a way to project the painting for student viewing
  • Technology to access websites and videos 
  • Styrofoam egg cartons
  • Play dough
  • Paint
  • Water
  • Cups to hold the paint
  • Cotton swabs
  • String or yarn
  • Informational texts about dental health
  • Poster board or chart paper (1 for each group of 4)
  • Crayons, markers, and/or colored pencils 

Advance prep:

  • Cut egg cartons in half (rows of 6) 
  • Cut lengths of string or yarn (for flossing)
  • Thin the paint with water and put into small cups

Lesson extensions:

  • Students could further develop their posters and/or informational paragraphs into public service announcements aimed at K-3 students. Possible projects could include TedTalks, podcasts, slide decks, claymation, videos (including green screens), Prezi, or other technology. Have students present their PSAs to students in other classes. 
  • Students could practice using facial expressions and body language to represent different feelings prior to drawing their posters.

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Partner Organization A+ Schools of NC