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Dentist Carries Out Root Canal Treatment On 400-Pound Gorilla

A dental team in England meticulously performed a root canal treatment on a 400-pound, western lowland gorilla named Pertinax who lives at Paignton Zoo. Pertinax was sedated for two hours while the dental team went on with the dangerous dental mission.

The gorilla developed a fracture that could lead to a boil. Jo Reynard from the zoo’s veterinary team explained the living pulp risks exposure when the tooth is fractured. Saving the tooth required removal of the pulp and implanting a biocompatible replacement. Zoo officials had to work fast on a root canal treatment to avoid further complications.

Paignton Zoo’s dentist, Dr. Peter Kertesz and his team finished the root canal treatment in 40 minutes. Pertinax was asleep a little over two hours, just enough time for the zoo’s veterinary team to conduct a full health check. Pertinax was a little groggy post-treatment but he bounced back to his normal self the next day.

“Dentistry is a highly-specialist field, all the more so in exotic animals. Pertinax deserves the best and duly got it,” added Neil Bemment who works as an environmental park curator of mammals at Paignton Zoo. Bemment stressed that Pertinax’s root canal was very successful.

Pertinax’s root canal was very similar to a human root canal, explained Kertesz. However, the animal’s size made an already complicated procedure all the more complex. Paignton Zoo vets and dental nurse Monika Mazurkiewicz assisted Kertesz in the procedure.

Kertesz conducted dental procedures on other exotic animals such as tigers, whales and elephants. He emphasized the importance of having the right team to successfully conduct a dental procedure on animals. Pertinax’s dental procedure involved 10 people.

Kertesz’s first animal dentistry procedure took place in 1978 when he looked at a veterinarian’s cat. He then worked at London Zoo and the International Zoo Veterinary Group. In 1985, he put up Zoodent International, a team that offers specialized dental services to zoos.

“People often ask me if it is fun working on gorillas and tigers. It certainly is not fun. It is very hard and serious work. The health and sometimes the life of a rare creature is in your hands,” said Kertesz.


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