Gorilla visits the dentist

Gorilla image courtesy of abc News

While some of your patients might seem a little on the hairy side, a US vet has been called on to give a nearly 200-kilo gorilla called Pertinax root canal therapy.

The western lowland gorilla developed a fracture that could have led to an abscess, so British zoo officials made the decision to give the giant primate a root canal­—and fast.

However, a root canal on a gorilla is no easy feat. Medical staff, including specialist zoo dentist, Dr Peter Kertesz of Paignton Zoo in Devon, England, had to give the gorilla enough anaesthesia to knock him out for around two hours.

“People often ask me if it is fun working on gorilla and tigers,” Dr Kertesz said in a statement. “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.”

Dr Kertesz says the key to working with unusual or oversize animals—in his experience, anything from an elephant to a tiger, and even whales—is having the right people on his team.

At least 10 people helped Dr Kertesz with the procedure, which took around 45 minutes of delicate work to treat Pertinax’s tooth.

“Animals or people, it’s all the same: They need treatment, they get treatment,” he says. “The size is what varies, and the location.”

While the gorilla was a little groggy after the procedure, zoo officials confirmed that he was up and back to receiving visitors in the exhibit area only one day after the operation.

“Dentistry is a highly-specialist field, all the more so in exotic animals,” Neil Bemment, Paignton Zoo environmental park curator of mammals, said in a statement. “Pertinax deserves the best and duly got it. The operation was a complete success.”


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