Boris, a 29-year-old polar bear that lives at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Washington state, recently had to have three teeth removed. With the bear weighing in at 880 pounds, planning a dental procedure for Boris can be a rather large challenge. The surgery removed teeth that were either broken or decaying. The famous polar bear had to be sprawled out on an enormous table while the procedure was conducted.
Boris was anesthetized and given a full physical exam. Dr. Loïc Legendre, a veterinary dental specialist, told Tacoma-Seattle FOX affiliate KCPQ that it's not unusual for polar bears of Boris' age to have decaying teeth. Unfortunately, Boris' teeth were far too deteriorated to be saved. At 29, Boris is one of the oldest polar bears in North America, but still shows signs of good health. The procedure took place at the zoo in Tacoma, and Legendre was assisted by zoo staff veterinarians and a support team. The dentist had to dig around the tooth in order to remove it.
In 2013, Boris had to undergo a root canal during a four-hour medical exam, according to the Daily Mail. It took 12 staff members to carry the bear to the operating table before a procedure. Boris has been at the zoo since 2002, after being rescued from a circus in Puerto Rico by U.S. animal welfare officials.
About polar bears
According to Polar Bears International, when these animals are in captivity they can live to be in their late 30s, and one polar bear at a Canadian zoo lived to be 42. However, the source noted that in the wild, these gargantuan creatures only live 15 to 18 years. Though polar bears are not yet endangered, scientists fear that a combination of climate change and poaching will greatly reduce the polar bear population in the coming years.
Polar bear teeth are massive, which makes sense considering they are the largest land carnivores and sit atop the Arctic food chain. Polar bears feed primarily on seals, and when possible, only eat the blubber. These animals have 42 teeth, which include canines, incisors, jagged premolars and molars, according to Sea World. These different kinds of teeth allow polar bears to tear at flesh and chew on the tougher portions of seal meat.