SEATTLE - Students from Olympic Middle School donned 3D glasses and wielded interactive wands on a mission at the Pacific Science Center. Dentisha, a young inventor takes them on an all-out battle against bacteria that causes tooth decay.
University of Washington researcher Dr. Jacqueline Pickrell helped design the exhibit "Attack of the S. mutans!" with funding from the National Institutes of Health.
"If somehow they could see and feel for themselves the impact that brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste makes, that would intrinsically motivate them to do it themselves," she said.
Dr. Pickrell is leading a study for the Department of Dental Public Health. It will be the first to show how well the video game approach gets kids involved in their own dental care.
"Dental health is the number one reason children in this country miss school," she said.
One government report shows tooth decay increased 28 percent over a decade, much of it in kids. It can lead to pain, infections, and problems with eating, speaking, and learning.
Parents like Lori Reno fight the battle of the toothbrush every day with their kids. She's hoping she'll get some extra ammunition here.
"We always struggle making sure that they brush their teeth, so I think it's very good, especially to remember to take our retainers out of our mouth," she said.
For now, Dentisha seems to have the kids convinced about the dangers of plaque.
"I think I should brush better so that I don't spread germs everywhere and that stuff, and don't get cavities," said 10-year-old Noah Reno.
"You need to keep your teeth clean. And 90 percent of all cavities are preventable," said 11-year-old Andrew Jerzak.
Research shows kids who live in poverty have twice as much tooth decay as other kids. And it's more likely to go untreated.
The exhibit will be at the Pacific Science Center through May 31. Once you buy a general admission ticket, there's no extra charge to get in.