- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

Getting my cartoon-enamored 3-year-old into a dentist's chair has become a bit less daunting, thanks to the Internet. After he saw a Web site featuring a green cavity monster jackhammering on a tooth and a heroic incisor busting out of plaque, my boy found his visit to the dentist to be more a battle of good vs. evil than a frightening experience. The cyber-stop that had him giggling contains a wealth of information on keeping one's pearly whites in tiptop shape.

Healthy Teeth

Site address: www.healthyteeth.org

Creator:

The Nova Scotia Dental Association, incorporated as a society in 1891, represents the 500 dentists in that Canadian province. The group unveiled the site in spring 2000 and continues to update it.

Creator quotable:

"We created the Healthy Teeth site with the belief that oral health knowledge and understanding in children today will translate into adults of tomorrow with better oral health," says Dr. Paul Downing, association president.

Word from the Webwise:

The site does not really cater to the toddler crowd I was just lucky to find that its funny cartoon characters related to my son but elementary-age students looking for a fascinating, educational resource about the science and importance of teeth and the mouth have come to the right place.

Pages mix multimedia content, colorful illustrations and text to reinforce facts in an easy-to-understand format. The site pulls its information from John Besford's "Good Mouthkeeping: A Parent's Guide to Dental Care," the Nova Scotia Department of Health publication "Dental Health Grade 4 to 6" and the Canadian Dental Association's guide "First Teeth."

After seeing a happy tooth cleaning itself with a brush on the opening page, visitors can focus on the sections Cavities, Prevention, No Butts About It, Teeth and Gums, A Visit to the Dentist, Experiments and Activities, and Braces for a well-rounded learning experience.

Paging through each of these sections, visitors will learn about the parts of braces; the functions of the incisors, canines and molars; the structure of the tooth; how a root canal is performed, including real images of the procedure; applying sealant to teeth (shown in a short movie); brushing basics; how plaque causes a cavity; and the effects of smoking on oral health.

The cigarette section was especially eye-opening, not only because of the gross pictures of a smoker with a leukoplakia sore and hairy tongue caused by smoking, but also because of the stream of news on the terrible problems associated with using tobacco.

Ease of use:

Visitors need the latest Macromedia Flash plug-in and Quicktime to thoroughly enjoy the site's design. There is no site map or search function, but pages are clearly linked throughout, and the targeted content should not be overwhelming for first-time visitors.

Don't miss:

An awesome virtual experience with a doctor can be found in the Visit to a Dentist section. A box pops up and first loads the reception part of the office. Visitors can get a 360-degree view of the surroundings, and a pointer offers some explanations as to why a fish tank or television may be found in that area. Next, an image of a patient sitting in a chair ready for the dentist to do some work can be found. Several spots can be clicked upon to find more information, including the function of each dental instrument. Finally, another 360-degree view features a room in the office where instruments are sterilized and waste is disposed.

Family activity:

The whole clan can find some neat projects in the Experiments and Activities section. In addition to a demonstration on the power of fluoride that uses an egg, junior scientists can learn about the effects of acid and the importance of flossing.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

The scare factor on this site might be a little high, and effective, for younger children who refuse to take care of their teeth. Images of severely crooked choppers and rotted teeth may be enough to induce nightmares. The developer's great intentions to explore oral health should be appreciated, however, and most children will find enough variety in the activities and information for a least an hourlong visit.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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