The "Smart Smiles" exhibit, which opens this afternoon, allows children to explore a faux dental office and participate in other interactive activities.
The museum's education coordinator Cherie Powell said the exhibit is the result of San Juan College dental hygiene students wanting to give back to the community. The exhibit will become a permanent part of the museum, she said.
"The exhibit includes an X-ray machine, a dentist's chair, dentist lights, and a Woody doll from Disney's Toy Story' that will serve as the patient," said Powell. "There will be different examples of X-rays kids can look at, and we'll have an egg-periment' (using a hard-boiled egg) to show the difference between teeth that have fluoride treatment and those that don't."
At today's opening, dental hygiene students will staff five different stations set up around the museum. Models of teeth will allow the kids to participate in different activities related to dental health, such as flossing and fluoride treatment.
Powell said the hands-on nature of the exhibit will hopefully serve as an effective way for children to learn about the importance of taking care of their teeth.
"It's so much easier for kids to learn when they touch and feel things, rather than just having to listen to information.
This is hands-on learning and hands-on fun," she said.
Free healthy snacks and a goody bag with toothpaste, a toothbrush and a coloring book will be given to visitors at today's event.
The idea for the exhibit came from one of San Juan College's community dental health courses, which teach hygiene students how to extend oral health care to the community, said Tammy Sanderson, assistant professor of the college's dental hygiene program.
In addition to the museum, the college also partnered with the Northwest District Dental Society and the Tres Rios Dental Hygiene Association to make the exhibit possible.
"We're hoping to keep this relationship with the museum and hope to be able to update and add to it," Sanderson said. "It's really going to be educational for both kids and parents. Kids will be able to wear lab coats, pretend to take X-rays, sit in the dental chair, etc."
In addition to the exhibit, earlier in the week, the museum received a new dinosaur model that has been set up in the museum's dinosaur area, Powell said.
The model is of a dinosaur called Deinonychus, which was an 11-foot-long, 160-pound carnivore that lived during the early Cretaceous period, about 115 to 108 million years ago.
"Deinonychus means terrible claw,' and I was told it was the dinosaur they used as a model for the Velociraptor in Jurassic Park.' They made the Velociraptor larger in the movie than it actually was," said Powell. "We're very excited about our Deinonychus, and we may have a name the dinosaur' contest in the near future."
Leigh Black Irvin can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4610. Follow her on Twitter @lirvinDailyTimes