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Open wide: extracting a lion’s broken tooth

What’s an emergency dentist to do if a lion has a toothache? Reach in to the lion’s mouth and operate, of course.

When Lockie, an 11-year-old male lion at the Darling Downs Zoo in Australia, broke a lower canine tooth, two vets were summoned. Once they got a good look inside the lion’s mouth, they realized that the situation was more complicated than they initially thought. The fearsome beast had actually broken both of his lower canine teeth, which are important teeth if you’re a lion. In addition, one of the broken teeth had fused with the jawbone, a condition known as ankylosis.

The vets called in some reinforcements to help with the complicated surgery. In the end, three vets, five students, five nurses and four zookeepers had to pitch in. The crack emergency dental team had to extract one tooth, but were able to save the other by treating it with a root canal.

The photo shows a little girl holding the extracted canine tooth, which is bigger than her hand. It can be challenging to remove a tooth from a human jaw; extracting one from a lion’s jaw must be infinitely harder.

Source: Callum Bentley. “Lion-hearted vets deal with big cat toothache.” The Toowoomba Chronicle. October 31, 2012.