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'Diving dentist' helps visitors brush up on fish tooth awareness at west Japan aquarium

A "diving dentist" checks the teeth of fish at the Shimonoseki Municipal Kaikyokan aquarium on June 4, 2023. (Mainichi/Katsutoshi Hashimoto)

SHIMONOSEKI, Yamaguchi -- A "diving dentist" encouraging fish to open their mouths for checks as visitors learn about their teeth has gained popularity at an aquarium in this western Japan city.

    The attraction at the Kaikyokan aquarium in Shimonoseki was timed to coincide with dental and oral health week promoted by the Japan Dental Association from June 4 to 10.

    In the event, a diver appears in a white coat, and releases air from a handheld tube. Thinking there is food available, longtooth groupers and other fish swim up and open their mouths. The diver then peers inside their mouths and checks their teeth.

    In a recent event, visitors were quizzed with such questions as "Do you know which kind of fish has a tooth structure similar to that of humans?" and children watching the display listened intently. Next to the water tank, the sharp teeth of a blacktip reef shark, and the unique teeth of a spotted eagle ray and of a Japanese bullhead shark were also presented. A panel provided additional information and visitors were allowed to touch the exhibits.

    Aquarium display worker Natsuki Shimomura commented, "Fish live in the water so they don't get cavities, but we hope that visitors can discover the mysteries of fish teeth and become more interested in cavity prevention by observing the various kinds here." The 10-minute diving dentist event will run until June 10. It is held twice a day, in the morning and afternoon, on the aquarium's third floor.

    (Japanese original by Katsutoshi Hashimoto, Shimonoseki Bureau)

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