Animals Illustrate Importance of Dental Hygiene – Creature Teacher

Meet the dentist who’s teaching children healthy habits with an assist from wildlife creatures. 

Boa constrictors and kangaroos and tarantulas are showstoppers that get a chorus of “oohs and aahs when The Creature Teacher visits elementary and pre-school classrooms around  North Texas.

Bringing a wildlife program to Fort Worth schools to discuss dental hygiene might seem unusual, but it keeps the audience’s attention, and that’s precisely why college theatre major turned dentist Scott Ballard turned to the Creature Teacher to help him illustrate the importance of dental hygiene.

“I’m super arachnophobic,” admits Ballard. “But the way I see it, if children can brave seeing  the dentist, I can hold a tarantula.”

It is a sight to behold the way that Dr. Ballard engages a young crowd in a sea of distractions. He often begins by saying “I want to talk to you about some nasty gross stuff today”.  He gets them engaged and keeps them on the hook. He really does command an audience and the kids love it! 

After the chinchillas and the kinkajus do their part to get the student’s attention, the learning shifts to people as the students discover just how much they and the members of the animal kingdom have in common when it comes to their teeth.

The Creature Teacher offers students the chance to learn about dental health on their level by teaching them how wild creatures take care of their teeth and what they eat.

The presentations also affirm that learning doesn’t always have to be serious business. “Dr. Scott is a really big kid at heart. His thought is, “What if I can find a way to make something fun that kids perceive as?”

Beyond sponsoring The Creature Teacher shows for more than a decade, the Ballards distributes free dental hygiene kits to families in need. They estimate that they have easily given away 50,000 kits with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss.

But if you think that’s where the Ballards’ generosity ends, think again.

Those thousands of dental hygiene kits don’t put themselves together, so the Ballards sponsor church groups, sports teams, and civic clubs by paying the nonprofits to assemble them.  The groups are often working toward a project fundraising goal.

The Creature Teacher program remains in high demand among area schools.

Word has gotten out about how informative, engaging, and fun the program is. They do at least 15 school locations a year, all free of charge. The program has been around long enough that students who attended it are now adults and the memories remain. Dr. Scott was somewhere 

not too long ago when a young man asked him, “Aren’t you that dentist that had that program  with the animals when I was in school?” 

The shows never get old and Dr. Scott still lights up when the students get so excited to see him and the animals that he brings. “Kids will say to him, ‘You’re that kangaroo dentist! I’m still  brushing twice a day!’” For Ballard, learning the students have remembered a key takeaway years later makes it especially worthwhile.

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