Wild Dentistry

5144956273_8b409abf8dTigard dentist Dr. Williams sticks to human patients, but the world of animal dentistry is quickly evolving. Dental health is already a big focus of the preventative care provided by veterinarians of cats and dogs, and now dentistry is being taken to the next level: wild animals.

A recent article in the New Yorker highlights the work of Peter Emily, a semi-retired dentist living in Colorado whose passion outside of human dental care is care for wild animals, specifically carnivores. His work is transforming the nature of veterinary medicine and widening the scope human doctors have to help wild animals in need.

Years of work

Dr. Emily practiced (human) dentistry for many years before venturing into the world of veterinary dentistry by performing root canals on dogs. At the time, veterinary dentistry consisted of mostly teeth cleaning or teeth pulling. Then the Denver Zoo asked him to work on a fractured hyena tooth, and since then he’s been working with large, exotic animals more and more– and making significant contributions to the field.

At first there weren’t even tools that worked within an animal’s mouth (besides a human one.) And of course, there’s the matter of how animals’ mouths differ greatly from species to species. Dr. Emily developed his own tools to meet animals’ needs, gradually forming a library of dental tools for the exotic. He has also invented animal tooth brushes, written books, teaches classes, and has started a nonprofit to engage dental professionals in exotic animal dentistry.

Worldly patients

Dr. Emily has practiced on probably more species than any other dentist. He has performed dental procedures on bears, lions, cougars, the aforementioned hyena, tigers, kangaroos, and a black-footed ferret (who was fitted with a gold tooth). While zoos have been eager clients, animal sanctuaries are also keeping the dentist busy.

Dental care for those in need

Unlike zoos, who as a rule care for their animal occupants zealously, animal sanctuaries often see wild animals who have been mis-treated. Dr. Emily treats circus animals arriving to the sanctuary whose teeth have been shattered by blows to the head, or wild animals whose teeth were filed down by previous owners hoping to mitigate the dangerous potentials of their “pet.” Dental injuries are extremely painful, no matter what species you are– providing great dental care for the sanctuary’s inhabitants is a critical part of restoring their health and dignity.

Owl-odontics

Dr. Emily provides every dental procedure for his animal patients that a human patient can expect. He’s even venturing into orthodontics. For one patient, an owl whose beak criss-crossed, scissor-like, rather than falling straight up and down, the dentist developed a system for righting the bird’s “smile.”

Great oral health– for all

Dr. Emily’s work inspires everyone who believes that great oral health is a right that everyone should enjoy– including those of us who can’t advocate for themselves. And the wonderful thing about oral health is that so much of it lies in our own hands. We can take charge of caring for our smiles through daily hygiene, preventative visits to your Tigard dentist, a healthy diet, and making healthy choices.

 

Learn more about how you can take charge of your dental health at your next visit— we look forward to seeing you!

 

Photo Credit: Robert Scott Photography via Compfight cc

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