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Elephant has first root canal

An elephant who lives and works in India, being hired out for the bride and groom to ride at wedding ceremonies, has been treated by a team of top dentists after suffering with “tusk ache” for several years.

Devidasan, who is an impressive 27 years old, was diagnosed by the dentists as needing root canal treatment after the condition began to deteriorate and the split in his tusk began to widen. Although the procedure is a very common one in human patients, it is believed to be the first time that an elephant has undergone this kind of treatment anywhere in the world.

The team carrying out the procedure, which was lead by Dr CV Pradeep, professor at PSM Dental College in Thrissur, Kerala, decided to perform the potentially risky procedure on the damaged tusk without any anaesthetic drugs, instead asking the elephant’s human handler or “mahout” to help keep him calm and still, using techniques they have developed over their years working together.

The operation took nearly three hours and the team of three senior dentists from the college cleaned out a six centimetre cavity, which had become seriously infected. It was then filled with half a pound of resin, 40 times the amount needed for a human patient’s root canal treatment.

“This is the first surgery of its kind in the world. We are filing a patent for the treatment procedure – there may be some similar cases which need treatment,” said Dr Pradeep.

The team are now planning to create their own range of larger dental equipment, especially for treating elephants with similar tusk problems. For Devidasan’s procedure they had to improvise tools for the operation. Devidasan is now back at work providing a unique experience for couples on their wedding day.

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