Tums & Teeth

Recommended ages: 5 and up



5 Tums tablets

5 clear cups



Any clear soft drink


Any juice

Masking tape



What to do: Label each small clear cup for each liquid with masking tape and marker so that we can keep track of what happens in our experiment. Fill each cup about halfway with its respective liquid. First, we are going to drop a Tums into the water. What happens? Record any observations you may have. Using this same method, see how the Tums react to each of these different liquids and make some predictions about how these reactions may be similar to our teeth!


Additional information: Our teeth are made out of an element called calcium. The calcium in our teeth is packed very densely, which ensures their strength and function. Calcium is also a component of Tums tablets, however it is much more loosely packed and therefore much more brittle and delicate than our teeth. When looking at the reactions each of these drinks have with our Tums, keep in mind that our teeth are also having similar reactions with these beverages, but on a much smaller scale. Over time these reactions can add up and do quite a bit of damage to our teeth, so it is important to enjoy them in moderation!


Tooth Comparison: Home Edition

Recommended ages: 6–12 years old

Concepts and skills: biology, compare and contrast



Foam plates or other clean foam sheets



What to do:

  • If using plates, cut into quarters like pie shapes. Cut off the point (this end will be going into mouth.)

  • If using other foam sheets, clean thoroughly with soap and water, rinse, then cut into pieces small enough to fit in mouth.

  • Discuss the different teeth and their specific functions.

    • Incisors- These flat teeth are great for cutting vegetation.

    • Canines- Sharp and pointy, these teeth are designed to hold prey and tear meat.

    • Premolars, or bicuspids- for grinding softer food.

    • Molars- Flat and blocky teeth for grinding up hard food.

  • Make a tooth impression for each family member. Insert foam piece into mouth, give one good strong bite, then pull piece out. Examine and compare.

  • Use the visuals to compare your teeth to other animals’. Which is most like yours? Are any surprising to you?


Investigative Questions:

Do all creatures have the same teeth? Why?

  • Animals’ teeth show what kind of diet they have. Herbivores (plant eaters) have teeth for cutting vegetation and grinding it up. Carnivores (meat eaters) have teeth for catching prey and ripping meat. Omnivores (eat both plants and meat) have teeth for catching prey, cutting vegetation, and grinding up any food they have.

What differences do you notice in your family members’ teeth prints?

  • Children have 20 teeth, while adults have 32 teeth. Some reasons this may vary are if a child has lost teeth baby teeth or if an adult has wisdom teeth.


Sugar Scavenger Hunt

Recommended ages: 6–12 years old

Concepts and skills: math, reading, reasoning



Food in your cupboard

Timer or stopwatch


What to do:

  • Each person or team finds three food items: one with a lot of sugar, one with the least amount of sugar, and one that they think is healthy for your teeth. For an extra challenge, set a timer or use a stopwatch.

  • Gather all items in one location. Find the nutrition labels on packages or use links such as the ones provided to determine the amount of sugar in one serving of the food.

  • Determine which team won—who found the item with the most sugar, who found the item with the least sugar, and who found a food item that is healthy for your teeth?

  • What did you find that surprised you? What other factors would determine if you ate the food or not?


Investigative Questions:

How does serving size change the results?

  • A juice box may have less sugar than a bottle of soda, but the amount of liquid in the containers and the recommended serving sizes are also different. Older students and adults may enjoy calculating the amount of sugar if the serving sizes are changed. Also, the amount of sugar will vary if you eat more or less than a serving size.

Why is sugar bad for my teeth?

  • Sugar is food for bacteria that live in our mouths. The more sugar they consume, the more acids they release, which is corrosive to teeth. Likewise, highly acidic foods (e.g. lemonade, coffee) also are damaging to teeth.

What are ways to reduce the damage to our teeth?

  • Limiting the amount of sugary and acidic foods is a great idea, as is drinking water alongside these foods.