5402340884_e472d9f447Last month, Must Love Kids wrote a blog post highlighting some examples of unique teeth in the animal kingdom (like narwhals). This month, we have another story of animal teeth– a panda seeing the dentist.

Why do pandas need dentists?

Pandas actually work their teeth pretty hard. This is because they have a special diet– bamboo. In fact, all pandas really eat is bamboo, whose tough, fibrous consistency requires both eating a large volume in order to gain the necessary nutrients, and a lot of chewing– on average, up to 12 hours a day!

The panda in our story is Bai Yun, a giant panda living at the San Diego Zoo, who chipped her tooth during one of her epic bamboo meals. Now, for a panda, a chipped tooth isn’t just extremely uncomfortable (or even painful), it means they might not get the nutrients they require to stay alive– after all, pandas can’t make a milkshake or drink soup when their jaws hurt, they have to eat bamboo. So for a panda, a chipped tooth is a pretty big deal.

Zoo dentists to the rescue!

Fortunately for Bai Yun, part of her contract for living in a zoo full-time involves free health care for life. When zoo keepers noticed the giant panda‘s chipped tooth, they notified veterinarians– who perform dental care for animals in addition to other veterinary health care. Bai Yun’s tooth was fixed using dental composite, just like human teeth can be fixed!

Oral health is a critical part of overall health in animals just as it is in people. At zoos, veterinarians and other animal-care staff take this very seriously. A dental problem not only means that the zoo animal may have difficulty eating, such as in the case of Bai Yun’s cracked tooth, but just like in people, animal oral health impacts systemic, or over-all health, as well. In fact, the commonalities between animal dental care and human dental care are so apparent that one dental school at the University of Louisville even has a class where students care for animals at the Louisville zoo!

Preventative care is important for everyone

As the importance of animal dental care has become increasingly clear, zoos focus more on preventative care– rather than waiting, for example, until a root canal is necessary. And that’s what Must Love Kids is focusing on, too. Regular dental care and oral hygiene habits started early are what gives kids the best chance at excellent oral health– for life.

Our team is committed to ensuring that these first steps on the road to lifelong oral health feel safe, fun, and engaging to all our patients. If that means talking about panda teeth through most of a visit or cleaning, we’re up for the challenge!

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc