17 April 2013
By KATHY SUNDSTROM
TOOTHACHE can make us feel beastly at the best of times.
And if you find yourself being attacked by a tiger in the wild, toothache could be at the root of the anger.
Thankfully, the risks of this happening at Australia Zoo have been reduced after staff discovered 112kg Sumatran tiger Ranu had a broken tooth.
Dr Gary Wilson, from Advanced Animal Dentistry in Brisbane, performed root canal surgery on Ranu yesterday to save the tooth and Ranu from further agony.
Dr Wilson said tigers, like humans, experience extreme pain from bad and broken teeth.
The difference is, they don’t quite know how to verbalise the problem.
"The history books suggest tigers may become man-killers because of the pain from something like a bad tooth," he said.
"This causes them to pick easier targets, like humans.
"We’ve noticed military work dogs that have a broken tooth drop their bite."
Initially, it was feared Ranu’s broken tooth, an incisor, might have to be extracted.
But when no infection was found, the root canal surgery became an option.
Nine-year-old Ranu had had an unblemished dental record.
"This is the first time he has ever had to have an anaesthetic," tiger den superviser Giles Clark said.
Getting a 112kg tiger even one with a friendly nature like Ranu to the dentist’s chair can have its challenges.
This is why Mr Clark took no chances. Ranu was anaesthetised with a tranquiliser dart from a "blowpipe" in his tiger enclosure.
"He didn’t really know what happened," Mr Clark said.
"He turned around to look at the dart and then fell asleep."
When he wakes up, though, he is bound to have an enormous headache.