18 Sep

Giant pandas undergo their first dental checks in Chengdu, China

Going to the dentist can be a nerve-wracking experience, but a group of giant pandas in Chengdu, China has breezed through their first check-up with no problems at all. 

A group of around 20 pandas was recently visited by dental experts, who provided a round of routine checks for the playful inhabitants of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Before the check-ups, the pandas were anaesthetised. Once the effects had become visible, the team set about carrying out X-rays and examining the teeth to look for signs of decay and infection. Pandas are susceptible to oral disease because of their diet, which is predominantly made up of hard and sharp foods. 

While the wild panda’s diet consists almost exclusively of bamboo, pandas in captivity are often given additional food items, including fruit and vegetables. As pandas graze constantly, it’s vital that their teeth are healthy and strong. If a panda was to develop an infection or cavities in the teeth, it would be extremely hard to find a substitute for bamboo, and this would almost certainly have a devastating impact on the health of the panda. 

The centre staged a mass dental treatment session earlier in the month after receiving funding from a panda charity based in Macau.

South African veterinary dentist, Cedric Tutt, was charged with the responsibility of providing the dental examinations, and he was assisted by a team of on-site vets, as well as dental experts from other parts of China. Twenty of the centre’s 184 pandas were selected at random to undergo checks, with the majority emerging with a clean bill of health. There were some minor symptoms of gum disease and tartar build-up detected, which have now been addressed.

The check-ups mark the first comprehensive routine dental programme for pandas in China’s history, and they represent a major step forward in the conservation of this treasured, unique black and white bear.