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Lessons from a Lion’s Root Canal

Posted by Rocky Mountain Endodontics on Mon, Jun 1, 2015 @ 12:06 PM

Lion Root Canal

A root canal is no small procedure, whether it is for a human patient or a fully mature lion. In a South African wildlife sanctuary, Aslan the lion underwent endodontic surgery for three root canals, which included one extraction. According to Kevin Richardson, the self-proclaimed lion whisperer who has known Aslan since he was a cub, “Losing two canine teeth in the prime of life was a huge blow for Aslan. Without his full complement of teeth, Aslan had become withdrawn and irritable, and had he been in the wild he would have been unable to properly feed or defend himself. This surgery has undoubtedly improved Aslan’s life.”

As it turns out, the benefits of a lion root canal are very similar to the ones for a person’s. In some cases, bacterial infections can become painful, which would make anyone irritable. When root canals are needed, it can become difficult to indulge in your favorite foods, speak or even get enough hydration if sensitivity is an issue. Of course, with a lion root canal, a veterinarian is called in — not an endodontist — who has special training in big- game care.

Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp came to the rescue and explained, “This is a long procedure; it could take as long as four hours … having a lion under for that period of time can be a worry.” Sleep dentistry is a must for animals, but with humans it is only recommended for patients with extreme phobias or other specific concerns, since today’s anesthetics make conscious dental surgery pain-free.

A Winning Recovery

A few weeks after surgery, Aslan was in full recovery and once again perusing the sanctuary. His eating habits are back to normal, and he has been socializing with his brother Gandalf as well as others in the pride. Richardson reports that the changes in Aslan’s behavior have been incredibly positive post-surgery. “Everyone has noticed that he has a better temperament around feeding time. We’ve definitely witnessed him biting better into things and he actually took a carcass and moved it away.”

Most endodontic patients will not indulge in a full carcass for dinner, but going without a needed root canal can mean missing out on favorite foods such as steak, chicken dishes and anything tougher than a smoothie. However, for human patients, a perk of a root canal is the excuse to indulge in ice cream, yogurt and other soft comfort foods for a few days after surgery. Aslan is “definitely experiencing relief and feeling better after the operation,” says Richardson, a feeling often shared by human root canal patients, too.

Patients of all species, ages, sizes and genders may need a root canal in their lifetimes — assuming they have teeth, of course (most fish get a pass on this procedure). However, with the right expert, patients are back to enjoying their favorite foods in no time. Find out about your best move for a root canal by calling Rocky Mountain Endodontics today.

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