Elephant Tusk Removal
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2002
Martin Steiner1, DDS; Alan R. Gould1, DDS; Thomas J. Clark1, DMD; Roy Burns2, DVM
1Department of Surgical and Hospital Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA; 2Louisville Zoological Gardens, Louisville, KY, USA


Elephant tusk removal typically requires surgical procedures that are time-consuming, costly, and present a significant health risk to the animal when performed utilizing general anesthesia. Such techniques require gouges, chisels, and forceps to accomplish removal of the tusk. We present successful application of a procedure for elephant tusk that was simple, performed without surgical instruments, and did not require any form of anesthesia. The procedure utilized the technique of placing rubber elastics around the tusk, causing alveolar bone loss with subsequent exfoliation of the tusk. This method was first described in the human dental literature in 1923 when rubber rings were used in a human tooth removal. Subsequent reports described the use of rubber bands for tooth removal in patients with hemophilia. The present case concerns an 18-year-old African elephant (Loxodonta africana) with an eight-year history of traumatic tusk intrusion progressing to local infection requiring tusk removal. The rubber elastics were placed around the elephant tusk and apically repositioned every two days with additional elastics added. Elephant handlers tugged laterally on the tusk daily to generate increased tusk mobility. Exfoliation occurred within three weeks of commencement of use of elastics. The infection promptly resolved, and healing was uneventful. Consideration should be given to application of this technique to other types of zoo-housed animals where tooth extraction is indicated, and animal handling options and animal anatomy are appropriate. The successful outcome of this procedure suggests it to be a reasonable treatment option when parameters for tusk removal are similar.


Speaker Information
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Martin Steiner, DDS
Department of Surgical and Hospital Dentistry
School of Dentistry
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY, USA

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