While dentists may perform their fair share of root canal procedures on human patients, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who has carried out a root canal on a fully-grown African elephant.
Regardless of how uncommon such procedures might be regarding elephants, experts from Columbia Zoo had no choice. They opted to move forward with a root canal on a 50-year-old, five-ton elephant named Tantor, who regrettably suffered from a broken tusk.
Image Credit: Jorge Chavez via BBC
It allegedly took a team of more than 30 people, including biologists, dental experts, veterinarians, and law enforcement officials to handle the procedure safely. If gathering the ideal team to tackle the challenge wasn't daunting enough, specialized odontological equipment needed to be explicitly developed for operating on Tantor’s tusk.
A crowdfunding campaign is said to have helped alleviate the costs of the dental procedure, which paid for the vast majority of equipment and medicine. Dozens of people contributed more than $8,500 to ensure that Tantor received the life-saving operation.
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Tantor’s backstory is quite a gloomy one. The elephant was purportedly trafficked by drug dealers many years ago, but rescue teams managed to recover the elephant and bring him to the zoo in Barranquilla.
Unfortunately, Tantor suffered from a ruptured tusk near his gum line, and the injury exposed the tusk's internals to the elements. Bacteria later worked its way inside, creating a life-threatening infection that prompted animal experts to operate immediately.
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Although root canals aren’t renowned for being the most pleasant dental procedure to endure, those who took care of Tantor took every step necessary to guarantee his comfort. He was sedated for several hours, ensuring that he didn’t feel a thing throughout the procedure.
Tantor should make a full recovery, but zoo staff will continue looking over him, just long enough to assure that no other complications arise.