Did You See This?

A Bear Gets His Teeth Brushed

With a dog toothbrush.

The sloth bears at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., have to brush their teeth just like the zoo’s human visitors. In addition to that awesome visual, there are also other benefits to the teeth-cleaning procedure.

Sloth bears love to eat fruit and termites. To get the bugs, they open the termite mound with their claws and suck them up like they were drinking out of a straw. However, the bears may also suck up some not-so-delicious rocks and other debris that might break or damage their teeth. Brushing the bears’ teeth provides zookeepers with an opportunity to check for tooth damage. The regular brushing also helps prevent tartar buildup from their fruit-heavy diet.


In this video from the National Zoo, we see Hank the bear getting his pearly whites cleaned. Keepers train Hank to open wide using verbal and visual cues, and reward him with yummy snacks like grapes or peanut butter. For the brushing, keepers use a dog toothbrush, which has a handle longer than the one in your bathroom. The zoo tried to get the sloth bears to use dog toothpaste, but they didn’t like the taste, so they brush without it. Hank gets his teeth brushed only three to four times a week, unlike us humans, who should be brushing two times a day.