Preventing Holes in Teeth – are beliefs justified?

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Preventing Holes in Teeth

are beliefs justified?
A grade 8-9 science (biology) module

on tooth decay and its prevention


This module explores the reasons behind tooth decay and the role of toothpastes. It explores the value of fluorides in preventing tooth decay and other believes that have been put forward over the ages to prevent the lost of teeth through decay. The module considered whether the beliefs are justified.

Sections included


Student activities

Describes the scenario in more detail and the tasks the students should perform


Teaching guide

Suggests a teaching approach



Gives suggested formative assessment strategies


Teacher notes

Gives background information and activities using toothpaste


This module has been adapted from that developed under the PARSEL project ( as part of an EC FP6 funded project (SAS6-CT-2006-042922-PARSEL) on

Popularity and Relevance of Science Education for scientific Literacy
Overall Competencies: The students are expected to learn to be able to:

  • Development of social values through considering a social and economical problem with tooth decay.

  • Development of scientific skills through designing and performing experiments with toothpaste.

  • Enhancement of personal skills in allowing students to practice co-operative report-writing as a member of a team and by participating in group discussions. With the organizing strategies we have suggested, each student has a personal responsibility to report the findings of his/hers group to a new arrangement of groups.

  • Enhancement in science conceptual learning by studying the background of tooth decay from chemical and biological aspects and also the concept of hardness of various substances.

Curriculum content: Tooth Decay

Kind of activity: Library search on causes of tooth decay, Devise tests on the abrasive action of toothpaste, Group discussion on problems with tooth decay from a personal and an economical perspective; are beliefs in preventing tooth decay justified.

Anticipated time: 5 Lessons
This unique teaching-learning material is intended to guide the teacher towards promoting students’ scientific literacy by recognising learning in 4 domains – intellectual development, the process and nature of science, personal development and social development.
Its uniqueness extends to an approach to science lessons which is designed to follow a 3 stage model. For this the approach is intentionally from society to science and attempts to specifically meet student learning needs.

This uniqueness is specifically exhibited by:

  1. a motivational, society-related and issue-based title (supported in the student guide by a motivational, socio-scientific, real life scenario);

  2. forming a bridge from the scenario to the scientific learning to be undertaken;

  3. student-centred emphasis on scientific problem solving, encompassing the learning of a range of educational and scientific goals;

  4. utilising the new science by including in socio-scientific decision making to relate the science acquired to societal needs for responsible citizenship.

Preventing Holes in Teeth-

Are beliefs justified?


Everyone knows about the importance of cleaning teeth and the availability of toothpaste for this purpose. But did you know that toothpaste in the 18th century was often dangerous and caused tooth decay by rubbing off the enamel coating on teeth.
Today there are many suggested ways to prevent tooth decay. You may be aware of drinking water containing fluorides, or softeners. You may be aware also of toothpastes that include fluoride; or whitener, or antibacterial substances. Are they really helpful? To find out we need to know more of what causes tooth decay and how effective are the various treatments.

Your Tasks tareas del estudiante

Part A

As a group

1. Find out about the structure of teeth and what tooth-enamel consists of.

2. Carry out an experiment to determine what type of foods have potential to damage the enamel.

3. Write a short report on tooth enamel and your findings. Explain the mechanisms by which the enamel is damaged. Include in your report what happens if the enamel is damaged or removed and how it is possible to protect your teeth?

4. What are the ingredients in toothpaste? Find out the active substances in different types of toothpaste and why they are present.

5. You probably know that most toothpastes contain fluoride compounds. What is the effect of fluoride compounds on teeth? Are there potential dangers? What ingredients of toothpaste have a potential danger to health? Prepare to make a short 5 minute presentation on this to the class.

Part B

6. Toothpastes have an abrasive action. The task of your group is to compare the abrasive effects of different toothpastes. Design an investigation for this and discuss it with your teacher before starting the experiment.

7. Record your results in a tabular format. Write a report that contains the conclusions you have reached.

8. Discuss ways to prevent holes in teeth and whether the claims of different ingredients in toothpaste are justified or a danger to health.

Preventing Holes in Teeth-

Are beliefs justified?

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