From the wild lions roaming sub-Saharan Africa to the critically endangered Sumatran orangutans receiving care at the Sacramento Zoo, exotic animals around the world have been an intriguing topic for many years. While their habitats, diets and breeding practices are usually the conversation of choice, their unique dental needs are often left unexplored.
A new course coming to CDA Presents The Art of Science and Dentistry in Anaheim this May will give dental professionals and students a chance to learn about more than 35 years of exotic animal dentistry. Lead by Laura Braswell, DDS, “Lions, Tigers and Bears – A Case Presentation” reviews complex cases that highlight the various dental problems in animals and the challenges of providing treatment. In addition to lions, tigers and bears, the lecture will also profile several monkeys, apes and marine mammals.
“I have been teaching similar courses for over 30 years and still learn something new every time I see an animal patient!” said Dr. Braswell, a periodontist with a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, and a staff dentist for Zoo Atlanta and the Georgia Aquarium.
She said she designed the course to educate people on the similarities and differences between humans and nonhuman primates who also face oral complications such as oral decay, fractured teeth and periodontal disease.
“What surprises people the most about my class is learning how much these animals are like us,” she said. “The teeth of apes and monkeys are the most comparable to humans.”
One of only a handful of dentists in the country who treat zoo and circus animals on a regular basis, Braswell says that working on exotic animals is not a potential specialty field in dentistry.
“I started out in research at Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, then moved to Zoo Atlanta to be a dentist for the apes,” she said. “Most work is now done by veterinary dentists with a few folks, like me, who work as consultants under the veterinarian.”
Excited to share her love for animals and dentistry at CDA Presents, Braswell said those who attend her lecture should expect to learn and have fun. “This is not a ‘how to’ course; it’s mostly entertaining and informational. Most people seem to enjoy it, even if they are not in dentistry!”
“Lions, Tigers and Bears — A Case Presentation” will take place Thursday, May 14, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Occurring biannually in Anaheim in the spring and San Francisco in fall, CDA Presents is the nation’s leading dental convention, offering continuing education through more than 200 lectures and workshops, free hourly lectures at The Spot Educational Theater and the latest in dental products and services on the sprawling exhibit hall floor.