Even polar bears need to care for their teeth, and with a little help from the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, one cub’s chompers were fixed today.
Eleven-month-old Aurora arrived at the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre (IPBCC) in October after she was found alone near Churchill’s airport. Two of Aurora’s teeth were broken when she arrived in Winnipeg.
Aurora was in surgery this morning to have her teeth repaired. She underwent a full diagnostic exam and a successful four-and-a half hour procedure during which vets removed two baby teeth and one broken and infected adult tooth.
Dr. Chris Enright, head of veterinary services at Assiniboine Park Zoo, said broken teeth aren’t common for bears in captivity but when bears they are in the wild -- as Aurora was -- that changes.
"In the wild the bears grab on to seals and walrus that are struggling, and sometimes chewing on frozen food can result in broken teeth," Enright said.
Broken or infected teeth can cause bears a lot of pain and discomfort and sometimes result in death if they aren’t taken care of in a timely manner.
During the procedure, vets were unsure whether the damaged teeth were baby teeth. This can make a difference in the extraction process and also affect the way adult teeth come in later.
"The best-case scenario is that they’re baby teeth, but we’ll see how it goes," Enright said.
The procedure was led by Dr. Colleen O’Morrow, a veterinary dental-surgery specialist, who has performed root canals and dental extractions on animals before.
"It’s the same procedure as a root canal in a dog or a person," said Enright. "But we have the added complication where, unlike people, who with a little bit of freezing will tolerate that sort of thing, a polar bear, though she’s only a 110 pounds and change, she’s got the attitude of a much bigger bear," Enright laughed.
Officials at Assiniboine Park Zoo said the procedure went well and Aurora is now comfortable and recovering at the IPBCC. She will have a follow up exam with Dr. O’Morrow in a month.