EVEN tigers need help with their pearly whites.
Rama -- one of three Bengal tigers at Darwin's Crocodylus Park -- underwent dental work on his razor-sharp fangs yesterday.
The seven-year-old feisty feline, who weighs a whopping 200kg, had been suffering with three broken teeth -- one of them so badly infected it had to be taken out.
His upper right canine needed a root canal and his bottom left canine, which was snapped in half, was a fresh fracture and required a clean and cap.
Melbourne-based animal dentist David Clarke flew to the NT to perform the three-hour procedure.
It is the second time he has operated on Rama.
The tiger sat in the dental chair -- heavily sedated -- for root canal surgery to a cracked, abscessed left upper canine in January last year.
Dr Clarke had to drill a hole into Rama's tooth and remove the soft tissue and nerve, before sealing it with an anti-bacterial paste.
But it was this tooth that did not heal properly -- and had to be removed yesterday.
Dr Clarke said three out of four canine tooth fractures were "not very good''.
"He is somehow traumatising the teeth by biting on the cage or fighting with the other cats,'' he said.
But he said it would not affect Rama's eating because he did not have to try and catch his prey.
"It shouldn't worry him at all,'' he said. ``He will be a bit sore for a few days though.''
A team from Darwin's Parap Veterinary Hospital helped Dr Clarke throughout the operation, making sure Rama remained stable -- and, more importantly, asleep.
Dr Clarke is one of only two animal dental specialists in Australia. He has worked on everything from gorillas and hyenas to bears and monkeys.
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