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No, that’s not Chewbacca in the dentist’s chair

An orangutan who looks remarkably like Chewbacca can now chew without pain thanks to a root canal.

Every day, as part of their daily health check, the zookeepers at the Auckland Zoo ask the orange primates to open their mouths. One day, one of the keepers noticed that Charlie, a 31-year-old male orangutan, had a hole in his upper left incisor tooth, which is used for biting off pieces of food.

Charlie was probably in a lot of pain: a hole in the tooth may be a sign that the tooth is infected, and that the infection has spread to the root.

The zookeepers called in a veterinary dentist to do an emergency root canal. The dentist removed the infected core of the tooth, sterilized it with bleach, flushed it with saline solution, and then filled it with a material similar to the one used to give humans fillings in their teeth.

The fact that Charlie was able to sit in what appears to be a regular dentist’s chair shows just how closely related they are to humans.

Fun fact: orangutans are 5 to 8 times stronger than humans, but they have exactly the same number of teeth as we do: 32.

Source: Nikki Preston. “Getting to the root of Charlie’s pain.” The New Zealand Herald, November 22, 2012.