Staff at our Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre perform the first ‘in-house’ root canal surgery on a resident bear!

09 October 2020

For the very first time, staff at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre have successfully performed root canal surgery on one of their resident bears, the beautiful Rae.

Many of the bears who come to the VBRC have various problems with their teeth and gums, due to poor diet or chewing the bars of their cages while in captivity.

Anyone who has had problems with their teeth is all too aware of how painful and insufferable it can be, so getting treatment for the bears with broken or decaying teeth is high on the agenda for Animals Asia’s veterinary teams.

For the past three years, the team has been working closely with Dr Cedric Tutt, a veterinary dental specialist from South Africa. Dr Tutt has visited our Vietnam sanctuary periodically to perform these essential dental surgeries on the resident bears, but now, following months of training from Dr. Tutt, Senior Veterinary Surgeon Shaun Thomson is equipped and able to perform a temporary root-canal ‘in house’.

So, what exactly does a bear root canal consist of? Well, it’s pretty much the same as a human root canal operation, only with much bigger tools! Rae’s canine tooth is 67mm long, so you can imagine how big the file used for the surgery was!

The file, used to penetrate the tooth and root and clean out the infected materials, is 30mm long in a human operation. The file used for Rae’s surgery was a whopping 120mm long!

The alternative to root canal surgery is a tooth extraction, to reduce pain for the bears while eating and to stop the gum area becoming infected. This is a much more complicated procedure and means a longer recovery time period of up to three weeks which includes more pain medication and a change in diet for the bear. 

With root canal surgery, Rae was kept in for observation overnight but the very next day was eating her favourite foods and playing around with her friends in the pool like nothing had happened!

We are incredibly grateful to Dr Tutt for all of the time and expertise he has shared with us over the last three years. Rae and our vet team in Vietnam are hugely grateful for his guidance and training so we can continue to perform these important operations to ensure our bears live the happiest and healthiest lives possible.

None of this specialist care would be possible without generous supporters like you who allow us to turn your donations into kindness in action for the bears we care for. The next time you’re in the dentist chair think of Rae and her friends, flashing beautiful, healthy bear smiles, thanks to you.

Read moreDr. Tutt’s most recent visit to the bears in Vietnam