Dentists operate on wild bear in German national park | News | DW | 16.09.2016
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Dentists operate on wild bear in German national park

A team of dental and wildlife experts has set up a makeshift operating table to help a former circus bear with his tooth problems. Tooth decay is not uncommon among bears living in the wild.

Sometimes even bears need to pay a visit to the dentist.

Dental and animal experts visited Igor, a 250-kilogram (550-pound) brown bear from the Baruth wildlife park in the eastern state of Brandenburg, on Friday to take care of his tooth problems.

The specialists, along with the help of volunteers, raised the anesthetized bear onto a makeshift operating table, where he lay on his back with all four limbs stretched out. With the 21-year-old bear's mouth hanging open and tongue drooping out, the surgeons went to work on repairing his infected gums.

The team, led by the park's director Julian Dorsch, was made up of a specialist ursine dentist from Hamburg and experts from a Berlin-based institute for zoo and wild animal research. Surgeons used dental tools similar to those used for humans - albeit much, much bigger.

German dental and wildlife specialists operate on brown bear Igor Foto: Ralf Hirschberger/dpa

Bears living in the wild are also susceptible to tooth decay

Accidental discovery

Dorsch said the specialists from the Berlin institute encountered Igor's tooth decay by accident. Initially, they wanted to find out why he had not been walking properly since waking up from hibernation. While investigating Igor's hip joints, they also realized that he was experiencing severe pain in his teeth.

Another brown bear with the same problem was also scheduled for an operation on Friday. However, it was postponed when Igor's operation lasted into the afternoon.

According to Dorsch, bears living in the wild are also susceptible to tooth decay, with some experts maintaining that tooth decay and other dental diseases are nutritionally linked. Bears that were once part of circus acts and have since been released into the wild are also at risk, due to improper treatment or bad nutrition in early life.

Igor was born and raised in animal parks and put on show for audiences as a young cub. Dorsch believes that his bear's dental problems stem from chewing on the iron bars of his cage "out of boredom," as well as being fed sugary foods such as honey, cake and white bread.

Dorsch added that Igor's hip joints were also improving.

dm/cmk (dpa)

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