BEIJING, Oct. 7-- How do sea creatures keep their teeth pearly white? Those living in an ocean park manage by using a toothbrush just like human beings.
When given a brushing with an electric toothbrush, Xiaojia, a sea lion from Laohutan Pole Aquarium, shows a bit of unwillingness and turns his head several times. However, he finally opens his mouth and closes his eyes to enjoy the treatment.
To this six-year-old California sea lion, brushing is required once or twice each week, so that oral diseases are kept to a minimum.
Just like human beings, food left in a sea lion's mouth cause tartar or stains, so it's necessary to clean them, according to Xiaojia's feeder Gong Xiao.
To monitor their health status and prevent other related diseases, every morning an oral check is conducted by keepers and doctors.
When problems are found, immediate action is taken, Gong said.
For example, if the sea lion develops a canker sore, it needs to take a vitamin supplement.
Vitamins will be added to the food, Gong said,"but we never dare to add it in front of the animals."
"Once they saw us adding something into their food, they ate the fish, but spat out the pills. Then, they threw the pills into the water with their fins!"
It seems as if they were saying they would never eat the things again, said Gong, who has worked with the creatures for seven years,"they're very smart, even though they cannot speak."
Zhang Yudong, the aquarium's vet, told China Daily that wild marine animals' teeth are mostly used for hunting food. However, for animals bred in captivity, they don't have to do this, as they just swallow dropped food.
The teeth go unused for a long time and deteriorate, making human intervention necessary, he said.
Humans adopt the habit from childhood, while sea animals receive the service from their keeper and need time to adjust to such dental procedures.
At first, they refused to have anything put in their mouths and escaped to the corners of their tanks, said Gong Xiao with a laugh.
The training was conducted step by step, allowing the sea lions time to adjust to the unfamiliar electric toothbrush. First, look. Second, listen. Third, touch. Finally, brush, she said.
However, not all the sea lions could adapt. Riki, a nine-year-old, would try to bite the steel doors afterwards.
Close attention must be paid to stop him from damaging his teeth, Gong said.
Guo Chang, trainer of white whales, said they use normal toothbrushes for white whales.
However, for sea creatures in the wild, plants like seaweed make for a perfect form of dental floss.
(Source: China Daily)