Visitors to the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry yesterday found teasers for their taste buds.
The youngest visitors created a mystery flavor, entered a smelling bee, sampled spicy cookies and colored a big mouth in a celebration billed as "Bite Your Tongue." The program was one in a monthly series of family events that culminates with the museum's second anniversary celebration in June.
Housed in a renovated century-old building at Lombard and Greene streets, the museum rooms once served as the dental school for the University of Maryland, Baltimore, which claims the world's first dental college. It now displays dental history and boasts toothy artifacts such as George Washington's wooden dentures.
"George Washington's teeth were fake and brown," said Krystal Fitch, 8. "Maybe he didn't brush."
Tyeshia Moorman, 7, said wooden teeth "were probably why George never smiles."
Krystal and Tyeshia are members of a newly formed Girl Scout troop at Shiloh Christian Community Church in West Baltimore. Their leader chose a museum trip for their first meeting.
"I want to get these children out and expose them to all different things," said Sharon Buie, Scout leader to about 21 children. "We are mixing culture into our first meeting."
The museum invited two sensory analysts from McCormick & Co. Inc. who flavored the event with a lighthearted look at scents and tastes.
"We wanted to get a little away from teeth and show what is going on in the rest of the mouth," said Emily L. Hollis, museum assistant director of education.
Several children had just toured the museum's exhibits, when Rebecca Norwat began by asking the children what they thought a sensory analyst did.
"Do you pull teeth out?" asked 4-year-old Danasha Allen, covering her mouth with her hands.
Norwat and Elizabeth Coppin quickly reassured the children that they study food characteristics and test products.
Norwat and Coppin laced lessons in spices with geography and culinary arts and passed out unlabeled samples.
"This is the seasoning on top of pizza," said 11-year-old Erika Fitzgerald, sniffing a bottle of oregano.
Next, the children tried their noses at a smelling bee.
"Most of the flavor of food is actually the smell of food," said Norwat. "Your brain can remember about 1,000 odors."
She admitted coloring her samples differently to trick the children. Krystal admitted it took her two tries before she could correctly named eight different scents, acing the test.
Peter Zellhofer, 8, and Dustin Hinz, 8, admitted the candy taste test had them stumped.
"The candy tasted like cherry, but it was colored orange," Dustin said. "They said that flavors don't really have colors."
Another challenge involved creating a mystery flavor from a concoction of five different chemicals. No one was sure of the ingredients, but most knew the end result: strawberry.
Jane Casper, a dental hygienist and museum volunteer, handed the children toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste as parting gifts. She often gives a brief lesson in dental care to the younger groups of museum visitors.
"I tell them how to keep their teeth healthy, so they don't end up like George Washington," Casper said.
Pub Date: 3/22/98