Taipei Zoo's Tuan Tuan now boasts a new shine to his smile as the world's first giant panda to sport an orthodontic brace.
The giant panda underwent surgery on Sunday (Dec 23) to repair his upper left canine tooth, and had a titanium brace fixed, the zoo in Taiwan's capital said in a Facebook post on Monday.
Taipei Zoo said that Tuan Tuan's tooth was found to be damaged and bleeding on Dec 9. The zoo then assembled a team of veterinarians, dentists and anaesthetists, which conducted an emergency examination and treatment on the panda on Dec 12.
The medical team discovered that his upper left canine had cracked and the tooth pulp was exposed, leaving the panda at risk of tooth infections. The team carried out root canal treatment for Tuan Tuan and made a mould of his tooth for his brace.
The orthodontic brace was made out of titanium, which is commonly used for medical purposes, as it is a non-toxic and hardy material suitable for the panda's needs.
Like most giant pandas, Tuan Tuan's daily diet mainly consists of bamboo stems and leaves. The canine teeth are usually used to chew the hard bamboo stems, which made it necessary for the medical team to choose a hardy material that can withstand wear and tear.
The titanium brace will allow Tuan Tuan's tooth to heal and prevent him from damaging it again, the zoo said.
Tuan Tuan's surgery not only makes him the first giant panda in the world to sport a dental brace, but it is also a breakthrough procedure for Taiwan's veterinary professionals, reported Chinese media, citing the zoo.
The giant panda was a gift to Taiwan from mainland China in 2008, alongside his partner Yuan Yuan. The pair celebrated their 14th birthday in August this year.