Giant pandas have lived on the earth for at least 8 million years and are known as “living fossils”. They are the world’s flagship species of biodiversity conservation. Teeth are one of the important digestive organs of animals, hence, healthy teeth are vital for the survival of wild animals. Giant pandas eat bamboos on a daily basis. Given that their food constitutes a single type and a hard texture, their teeth are prone to wear and tear. Moreover, even if they have dental problems, it is difficult to replace bamboos with other foods to feed them. Consequently, dental care and oral medical treatment are indispensable parts of the clinical medicine for giant pandas.
On September 2, 2019, the clinical technology and application research of giant panda dentistry was officially launched at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Supported by the Macao Giant Panda Fund, the panda base invited Dr. Cedric Tutt, a veterinary dental specialist from South Africa, to conduct an oral health screening for giant pandas in Chengdu. Veterinarians from the panda base, Dr. Cedric Tutt and other Chinese and foreign dental specialists carried out detailed examinations on the common oral diseases of giant pandas in the aspects of oral hygiene, tooth development, endodontics and periodontology, and completed the examination and health care of common oral diseases, dental X-ray and 3D scanning of tooth morphology for giant pandas. This was the first time in the history of giant panda conservation that the giant panda's teeth were examined systematically and on a large scale.
On September 3, dental specialists from Chengdu panda base collaborated with Dr. Cedric Tutt to conduct a clinical examination for giant pandas. The specialists discovered that some of the 20 pandas sampled for examination had mild gingivitis and dental calculus, mild tooth wear and moderate stained teeth. However, the stained areas are inside the teeth, not on the teeth surface. When the specialists examined all the teeth through dental x-rays, they discovered that even though some of the teeth were stained, they were still healthy. It was also discovered that some giant pandas needed partial root canal treatment due to pulp exposure caused by tooth wear. Overall, the teeth and gums of the giant pandas examined were in good health.
According to veterinarians at the panda base, the oral health screening for giant pandas provided an important reference for the prevention and treatment of oral diseases in giant pandas and ensured their oral health. The clinical technology and application research of giant panda dentistry is a new beginning of the ex-situ conservation of giant pandas, which effectively enhanced the treatment technology of giant panda dental health and further improved the welfare of giant panda population.