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A trip to the dentist

Posted by | July 24, 2017
By Nina Woodford, Office of the Campus Veterinarian

For bears that have an active “chewing” lifestyle, dental work is often required to keep their teeth in good working order. Especially after 15 years.

A sedated grizzly bear undergoing a dental procedure at WSU.
A sedated grizzly bear undergoing a dental procedure at WSU.

Routine physical exams this spring revealed that our two mature adult male bears had broken canine teeth. So on July 20, both John and Frank were taken to the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine for dental procedures.

While the bears were anesthetized, a board-certified veterinary dentist conducted a root canal on the broken canines.

Grizzlies each have four canine teeth, all large and sharp at the front of their mouth.

The “root canal” is a cavity inside each tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and other tissues. If this tissue is exposed by a tooth fracture, the cavity can become infected and become a source of pain.

Root canal treatment involves drilling small holes into the tooth to clean and sterilize the cavity. Then, the holes are filled to prevent accumulation of bacteria while keeping the tooth intact. Root canal treatment is comfortable for the bears and saves their teeth, which would have to be extracted otherwise.

In addition to the root canal treatment, both bears also received a thorough dental cleaning and a complete physical exam.

The dentist cleans out the root canal on one of the WSU grizzlies before filling it.
The dentist cleans out the root canal on one of the WSU grizzlies before filling it.