Biters & Grinders

Children will learn about dentists and use a variety of materials to learn about how their teeth work.

Lesson Objective

Children will explore their teeth, discover how they work, and learn about how a dentist helps keep teeth healthy.


What You'll Need

  • A tooth – either a model or real tooth, if possible
  • Staple removers – 1 for each child
  • Wooden meat mallets – 1 for each child
  • Clay – a golf ball sized amount for each child
  • Crackers – 2 for each child
  • Small child-safe mirrors – 1 for every 2 children
  • Table covering

What To Do

  1. Invite children to use the mirrors to look at their own teeth. Give them time to look at their friend’s teeth as well.
  2. What do the children notice about teeth? Where are they? What do they look like? What color/shape/size are they? Are your teeth all the same?
  3. Point out that we have a variety of teeth in our mouths. They are different sizes and shapes. All of our teeth help us eat, but they have different jobs.  
  4. We have two basic types of teeth, biters and grinders. Biters (incisors) are in the front of the mouth and we use them to bite off pieces of food. Grinders (molars) are in the back of the mouth and we use them to grind food into little pieces.
  5. The children can use the clay and the staple remover to practice the action of incisors. Give each child a golf ball sized amount of clay. Let them roll it into a snake shape or a pancake shape. They can use the staple remover to take “bites” from the piece of clay.
  6. The children can use the crackers and the mallet to practice the action of molars. Give each child a cracker. Put the cracker on a paper towel on a hard surface. Let them use the meat mallet to press and grind on the cracker. Explain that their molars do the same thing when they chew on food.
  7. During snack or lunch, as the children are eating, ask them if they are using their molars or their incisors.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Where are your teeth? Where did they come from?
  • Why do we have teeth?
  • Tell me what your teeth look like.
  • Do all of the teeth in your mouth look the same?
  • How do you take care of your teeth?
  • Who helps you take care of your teeth and keep them healthy?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Invite a dentist or dental hygienist to visit your class to discuss dental health and dental care.
  • Purchase inexpensive toothbrushes or have families send in toothbrushes and practice brushing teeth after eating.
  • Create a dental office in your dramatic play area. Ask a local dental office to donate face masks (label one for each child so they do not share) and any other items that are safe to use with young children. Provide clothespins and paper towels as bibs. Paper, crayons, and clipboards can be used to “write” reports. Calendars or datebooks and index cards could be used for making appointments.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to locate and identify their own teeth? 
  • Did each child use the materials to demonstrate how our teeth break down food?


Did You Know?

In our early years, humans have 20 teeth. Around the age of 5 or 6, our adult teeth begin to emerge and replace our “baby teeth”. Adults have 28 permanent teeth (32 if they have their wisdom teeth). The part of the tooth that can be seen above the gum is called the crown. All of our teeth help us to eat, but certain teeth have different jobs. Incisors are in the front of the mouth and we use them to bite and tear off small pieces of food. Molars are in the back of the mouth and help us to grind our food into little pieces so that it is easier to swallow. 

The crown of each tooth is covered with a hard, shiny, protective material called enamel. Dentin is found beneath the enamel. Dentin makes up the majority of the tooth. Dentin is also hard, but not as hard as enamel. Within the dentin, is the pulp (the inner part of the tooth). The pulp of the tooth contains the nerve endings and the blood supply. When we feel pain in our tooth, this is where the sensation comes from. The root of the tooth reaches into the gums and is anchored in the jawbone.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • dentist – a dentist is a type of doctor who takes care of the teeth and the mouth.
  • tooth (teeth) – the hard, white objects in your mouth that you use to chew your food.
  • incisors – in humans, one of the four sharp teeth located at the front of the mouth.
  • chew – to break apart into small pieces with our teeth.
  • grind – when you grind something you are crushing it into very small pieces.
  • mallet – a mallet is a type of hammer; it usually has a short handle and the part you hit things with, the head, is larger than a regular hammer.

Lesson Tips

  • Remind the children that they are just pretending and should not put any of the items in their mouths.
  • If you do not have enough mallets for each child, use small narrow blocks from your toy area.
  • If you do not have any staple removers or do not feel that they are safe for the children to use, you can use plastic forks. Give each child two forks. Have them hold a fork in each hand and use the forks to break apart the clay.


  • The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss
  • Sugarbug Doug: All About Cavities, Plague, and Teeth by Dr. Ben Magleby
  • Maisy, Charley, and the Wobbly Tooth by Lucy Cousins
  • Arthur’s Tooth by Marc Brown

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS