Dolphins and seals need dentists too!

  • 22 August 2012 | by Dr Caryl Knox | Category: Education

A big, wet, fishy kiss for the friendly dental vet

Onderstepoort vet Dr Gerhard Steenkamp received a warm reception from the dolphins, seals and their caregivers when he visited uShaka Sea World to perform regular dental check-ups on Friday 17 August 2012.

He inspected the dolphins’ teeth for fractures and signs of infection visually and by using a hand-held X-ray machine much like the ones used on humans.

Dolphins have permanent, non-replaceable teeth that are the same shape and perform the same function, since they swallow fish whole. Their teeth appear at about three months of age and have fully erupted by five months.

The dolphins were all very well behaved and offered the friendly dentist big cheesy grins as he examined their teeth.

A dolphin caregiver gets a dolphin to open wide for inspection

Moving on to the seals, Dr Steenkamp checked all teeth, from the youngest, Spongi, who is four, to Gimli, aged 25.

Their dental health is monitored by a series of digital photographs since seals end up with a build-up of calculus or tartar on their teeth, despite regular brushing by their caregivers.

Dr Steenkamp, who has an interest in dentistry and maxillofacial surgery, will be making regular visits to uShaka Sea World as he has joined our active health-monitoring programme.

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