It’s not just humans that can suffer with dental problems, in fact broken or infected teeth are a major cause of carnivore death in the wild; luckily for 75 stone polar bear Arktos, there were some dentists on hand to help him out after he started to get toothache.
Vets from the Royal Zoological Society darted the huge bear with tranquilisers and performed a three hour dental operation yesterday. When Arktos was unconscious, the dentists discovered that one of his teeth was damaged at the tip and had rotted through; they prescribed a root canal filling – a routine procedure with humans that involves drilling into the tooth and scraping out the inner pulp to remove infection.
Douglas Richardson, Animal Collection Manager at the Highland Wildlife Park explained that they had trained Arktos and the other polar bears to open their mouths for trainers to inspect their teeth, adding that ‘Arktos really is a lucky bear and we were delighted to be able to save his tooth; in the wild the infection would have tracked through his system, causing him a great deal of pain and discomfort and, over the longer term, it could eventually kill him.’
After the three-hour root canal, Arktos took twenty minutes to come round, then Douglas says that ‘he quickly had a drink and we expect him to start eating again this morning, when we will try him on some of his favourite soft foods as his mouth will still be a bit sore.’