Every dentist has had to deal with an unusual patient at some point in their career. However, few can lay claim to having pulled teeth from the mouth of the king of the jungle. Yet that is exactly what Dr Peter Kertesz found himself doing when he was called in to deal with an Asiatic lion with toothache.
The female lion, named Indu, had chipped her tooth and developed an abscess in her mouth. This required an operation, lasting two hours, in order to remove the problem tooth. Dr Kertesz said that Indu recovered very quickly, and “was sitting up around 15 minutes after.”
Dr Kertesz has been dealing with both human and animal dental problems since 1978, when he had his first non-human patient. Since then, he has worked with pandas, elephants, whales, gorillas and many more exotic animals, as well as keeping his standard dental practice.
He said: “Animals or people, it’s all the same – they need treatment, they get treatment. The scale and the location is what varies.” This goes to show that you never know who your dental marketing campaigns are going to need to target.
However, do not expect to go straight from standard dental procedures to removing a panda’s pre-molars, as normal dental equipment will not be enough to do the job. Dr Kertesz has had to design his own range of specialist tools, built by precision engineers, in order to safely deal with his animal patients.
Indu currently lives in Paignton Zoo in Devon. Adult Asiatic lions usually weigh around 20 stone, or 130 kilograms, and the canine tooth that had to be removed was four inches long. Operating on an animal that size required seven vets, dental nurses and mammal keepers to assist Dr Kertesz.
Neil Bemment, Paignton Zoo’s director of operations and curator of mammals, said: “We think she chipped some teeth when biting on something that was unexpectedly hard. As toothache can be painful we wanted to give her a once-over in case they were becoming infected.”
But a dentist’s work is never done, and Dr Kertesz finds himself in high demand. He said: “I’ve travelled to many places providing dental treatment to rare animals; last month I was in the Ukraine treating a walrus.”