Human and animal physiology, at least in mammals, is closely related. That means both of these groups sometimes have similar health concerns. Endodontics, a dental specialty that treats the diseased pulp, or inner core of a tooth, is practiced in both human and animal medicine. The following is a brief explanation of endodontics and a comparison of the certification process for dentists and veterinarians. There's also a brief look at how one human dentist routinely crosses over the imaginary human/animal line and treats zoo animals.
Endodontists specialize in treating the pulp, or inner core of a tooth. The pulp could be infected because of tooth decay or injured due to mouth trauma, such as a broken tooth or even an entire jaw. Root canals are one of the most common treatments, involving removal of the infected pulp and the application of a material such as gutta-percha to seal up the empty space. Depending on the damage, the tooth may require just a crown. In more severe cases, a post is used to help restore and stabilize the tooth.
Animal and human teeth are distinctive in size, shape and quantity, but most have enamel on the outside, hard dentin under that and then the pulp. The treatment is pretty much the same, except the animals aren't as concerned with "how it looks" when done. Animals, of course, must also be sedated. Telling them to relax and say "ah" just doesn't work.
The Certification Process
Certification in endodontics is offered for both dentists and veterinarians
- Dentists seeking certification must take and pass an accredited endodontics program. Eligible programs are sanctioned by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association. Applicants must pass a written examination, present histories of cases from their own practices and finally take an oral examination. Successful dentists become members of the American Board of Endodontics.
- The road for certification is similar for veterinarians, but they are after a Board Certified Specialist in Dentistry designation. Those with this certification offer advanced veterinary services, including endodontic treatments.
Human Dentist Practices Zoo Dentistry
Boris, a lucky polar bear at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington, got his tooth abscess treated by Dr. Edmund Kwan, a human dentist. Now Boris is flashing a big silver filling. Dr. Kwan and his team have treated several animals in the Seattle-Tacoma area, including tigers, wolves, sea otters and gorillas. The doctor's biggest problem is that the instruments are sometimes too small for the task. The creative Dr. Kwan just "wings it."
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