Physical and Chemical Analysis of the Third Right Lateral Incisor of a Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2002
R. McManamon; J.S. Wefel; L.D. Braswell; Q. Wang; M.M. Crane; R. Hou; R.L. Sartor; Z.H. Zhang; A.J. Zhang; T.L. Maple


A three-year-old giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), on loan to Zoo Atlanta through partnership with the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding and the Chengdu Zoo, was immobilized for a complete physical examination, due to inappetance. A vertical fracture, exposing the pulp chamber, of the third right lateral incisor was identified, and the tooth was extracted. Malocclusion was also noted. Physical and chemical properties of the tooth were analyzed and documented through non-destructive methods (visual tactile exam, clinical x-rays, clinical photographs) and destructive methods (enamel chemistry analysis, ultrastructural examination using standard and polarized light microscopy, and EDAX analysis using scanning electron microscopy). Due to the lack of a normal giant panda tooth for comparison, values were compared to those obtained from a human tooth, and all results appeared consistent. Fluoride was measured in trace amounts, similar to levels found in human subjects who do not have the benefit of fluoride-containing products or water. EDAX analysis gave similar values for human and for panda in terms of calcium and phosphate levels. From these findings, the fracture was presumed to be due to simple trauma.

The co-authors believe that this report represents the first comprehensive (physical, ultrastructural, and chemical) analysis documented for a giant panda tooth. An international, cooperative biomedical survey of captive giant pandas in China in 1998 documented a significant number of dental problems (broken canines, malocclusion, abnormal wear patterns). This study was performed to complement international cooperative efforts to systematically examine, document, and share information regarding normal and abnormal health patterns and diagnostic and treatment methods to advance the welfare of giant pandas in captivity and in the wild. Detailed analysis and consistent documentation methods regarding giant panda dental health, will assist in achieving these goals.


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R McManamon

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