How do you perform root canal work on a 12-year-old lion? Answer: very carefully!


Life in the roar: Dentist surgeon Peter Kertesz, examines lioness Noname's three broken and infected teeth

One hundred elephants, 250 lions, 150 tigers, 60 gorillas and 40 walrus.
The list may sound like the roll-call for a very large zoo but these are just a few of the patients that specialist animal dentist, Peter Kertesz, has treated during his 27-year career.
Today he’s at Whipsnade Zoo about to add another to the list — a 165kg, 12-year-old lioness who needs root fillings for three broken and infected teeth.
To ensure a happy patient, a specialist team is on hand to assist, including the zoo’s chief vet, Nic Masters, an anaesthetist, nurses and keepers.

Let sleeping lions lie: Nurse Karia Berry checks that the tranquilliser has worked properly

First, to minimise any stress, a powerful tranquilliser is used, fired from a dart gun.
Once unconscious, the big cat is carried on a stretcher to an adjoining den that will be an improvised operating theatre.
Peter and his assistant, Monika Mazurkiewicz, unload boxes and set up the equipment — a portable compressor to run an air drill, cables and custom-made hand files.
The lion is laid full length on the ‘operating table’ — a bed of straw bales.

Whipsnade Zoo staff move anaesthetised lioness Noname, who weighs 165kg, into a den ready for dental treatment

Her pink tongue lolls between black lips and a rack of teeth; chin, eyebrows and ears neatly tufted with long hairs.
A tube down her throat provides oxygen and anaesthetic gas to keep her asleep and pain-free. Her massive jaws are wedged apart.
It is now clear the tips of three teeth have snapped off, about a third of the way down.
With the nerve of each exposed, she must have been in agony.

Animal hospital: Peter, assistant Monika and Whipsnade Zoo staff during the operation

Whipsnade Zoo veterinary nurse Karla Berry checks huge cat for vital signs prior to the treatment

With the aid of a powerful head torch, Peter uses a battery drill to open up the infected root canals of each tooth. Monika sprays a cooling jet of water to wash debris away.
This is easier work than some of Peter’s patients, such as a killer whale or elephants with infected tusks.
These heavyweights need industrial grinders powered by the sort of compressor that workmen use to dig up roads, and drill bits that are nearly 2ft long.
Peter has spent more than £80,000 on specialist equipment. In this case, the lioness has to be turned over halfway through the operation to allow access to the infected teeth on the other side of her jaw.

Open wide: Peter begins the delicate work of root filling the damaged teeth of the 12-year-old lioness

A drill is used to hollow out the teeth in question prior to being filled

After more than one-and-three-quarter hours, the last problem tooth is sealed.
The lion is then stretchered back to a side den, where she breathes pure oxygen to help her recover.
‘Everybody out!’ orders vet Nic Masters before the anaesthetic tube is removed from the lioness’s throat and, after checking that she is breathing normally, reversal drugs are given to bring her round.
The lioness has made an excellent recovery and has been eating and interacting with other lions without complications.
Peter’s next job is at the circus — Oxford Circus in London, that is, where from Monday to Thursday he works at a conventional dentistry practice.

Paws for thought: An anaesthetist monitors the unconscious lioness's pulse throughout the operation

Specialist animal dentist Peter Kertesz has operated on one hundred elephants, 250 lions, 150 tigers, 60 gorillas and 40 walrus

source: dailymail