WATCH | Open wide! SA veterinary dentist checks pandas' teeth in China

2019-09-18 07:17
Cedric Tutt checks the teeth of a giant panda in China.

Cedric Tutt checks the teeth of a giant panda in China. (Facebook)

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One of life's "bear" necessities is to make sure your teeth is clean and healthy. But dental health is not only a human concern. 

South African veterinary dentist Cedric Tutt travels the world to make sure that all sorts of creatures' teeth are well looked after. 

Tutt has worked on the pearly whites of a plethora of creatures, from dolphins and mules to cheetahs and, most recently, giant panda bears. 

Tutt assisted the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China at the beginning of September to examine the dental health of 20 giant pandas at its facilities. 

In a statement, the breeding centre said Tutt and local experts found that some giant pandas had mild gingivitis and calculus (a form of hardened dental plaque), mild tooth wear and moderate tooth staining. X-rays, however, revealed that most of the pandas' teeth were in a healthy state.

Some of the giant pandas needed partial root canal treatment, but overall, the teeth and gums of the pandas examined were in good health.

Living fossils

According to the centre, pandas are "living fossils", having been around for eight million years. 

"Teeth are one of the important digestive organs of animals, so the health of teeth is vital to the survival of wildlife. Giant pandas mainly feed on edible bamboo. The food is hard and the teeth are easily worn."

Once a tooth is damaged, it becomes difficult for that animal to feed because of its specific diet. Therefore, oral care is an indispensable part of the giant panda clinical medicine, the centre said.

According information on Tutt's website, he comes from a farming background. When he was young, he participated in the treatment of livestock and pets and preferred to ride his old horse each afternoon, rather than do school homework.

After compulsory military service, he graduated with a BSc degree in agriculture and spent two-and-a-half years participating in research in aromatic plants, grown for their fragrance and flavour characteristics.

Dream come true

At the age of 29, Tutt decided to follow his life-long dream and was accepted to study veterinary science at Onderstepoort at the University of Pretoria.

He graduated at age at 35 and entered a clinical assistant programme and obtained the BVSc (Hons) degree and a master's degree in cattle medicine.

Thereafter he and his wife, Kim, who is also a veterinarian, moved to the United Kingdom (UK) for seven years where Tutt specialised in veterinary dentistry and became a diplomate of the European Veterinary Dental College in 2007.

He also teaches extensively and in 2015 he taught in South Africa, the UK, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia, Turkey and Iran.

As a specialist veterinary dentist, Tutt treats domestic animals as well as zoo and wildlife species wherever he is invited to do so.

Recently visited countries treating zoo and wildlife include Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, England and the UAE.

On Tutt's Facebook page, many pictures and videos of his work can be seen, including a video of a dolphin getting dental treatment and a walrus undergoing a tusk extraction. 

News24 has scheduled an interview with Tutt about his work and experiences, which will be published soon.

Read more on:    china  |  animals

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