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Bacteria for breakfast

January 4th, 2004 · No Comments

Abigail wants to brush her teeth by herself. Again this morning she asked if she could do it alone. Watching her, I’m not sure she’s ready. So I today tried to explain to her more about why she needs to do such a thorough job. I told her how bacteria overnight “have a party”in her mouth, making baby bacteria, making plaque and eventually making decay in teeth. The girls have already been warned about cavities, mostly from Ted and his filling-filled mouth. But I thought it would be good to explain to them a little more why. And they seemed to be understanding it, at least a little.

Next Abigail asked, “What would happen if bacteria got into the ear?” Funny she should ask what would happen if bacteria got into the ear..”Well, remember when Elisabeth was sick …?”

Downstairs in the kitchen, while preparing breakfast, my laptop close by on my desk, I did a simple search and tried to find some pictures to help illustrate what I was trying to teach them.

The first site I saw had some great pics of how bacteria swim and tumble . It also had some nice time-lapse photos of how penicillin kills the bugs .

A microbiology curriculum for the classroom included experiments for each grade level. We’ve already done a couple, including feeding yeast. As a homeschool mom I’m grateful for the ideas. And as a science major, I found the following quote from the mission statement interesting:

Approximately 4% of all children entering kindergarten must eventually choose careers in the sciences and technology if future employment demands are to be met. Currently, however, only 2% of the population is entering science-related fields. The greatest rate of attrition in scientific interest occurs before students reach high school. In order to make science more real and exciting for our students, we propose that microbiology be introduced into the science curriculum as early as kindergarten.
Well I guess we’re on target for that….no pics except a colored table…

Another elementary curriculum contained some fun illustrations for teaching children the importance of microbes in every day life – from vinegar (fermented ethanol) to coffee beans (yeast used in the processing) to whale rumen bacteria (may be helpful for toxic waste). No pictures though.

Then there’s the old rot-your-old-baby-teeth-with-Coke experiment , not that I ever tried it myself but I remember seeing it done at science fairs when I was a kid. This version of the experiment talks about the difference between diet cola – which has an acidic effect, softening the enamel – and regular cola. I also learned that the sugar from regular cola continues to affect the teeth for up to 20 minutes after the last taste; sipping a soda for 30 minutes means the teeth are attacked by sugar for 50 minutes! No pictures here either.

But by far the best pictures I found of tooth decay were on a website written by a dentist in India . Even a picture of nursing bottle caries . I think these were pretty powerful for both me and the girls.

It also helped me appreciate more the dental care we have in this country. The Indian dentist says that A majority of people in India, especially children, suffer from tooth decay. And I found a South African newspaper article saying that 70% of 6 year olds there have caries. So far, Ted’s the only one in this family with fillings and I think American children in general now, from various stats I saw on the web, seem to have very low incidence of cavities.

After looking at these pictures, and talking about teeth, I wanted the girls to know that not all bacteria were harmful. As we sat down with our granola, I told them about the yogurt in their bowl. How the lactobacillus are helpful to us. Some microbes are even yummy! We thanked God and picked up our spoons.

And so we enjoyed bacteria for breakfast.

Tags: health