Tusks are elodont teeth and have an excellent blood supply through their dilated apical foraminae, which helps the pulp to remain alive for some weeks or months after the pulp becomes exposed. Bacteria will invade the pulp cavity and cause abscesses inside the pulp tissue.
If conservative therapy is initiated promptly, the healing potential of the elephant pulp may be utilised to help to form a secondary ivory wall and seal off the pulp exposure inside the tusk. The success of such treatment is highly technique sensitive and its desirability must be assessed very carefully in each case, taking numerous factors into consideration.
Oblique tusk fracture with a fresh pulp exposure. (African bull – 5 years old) bull at postmortem in 1885 demonstrating his deformed maxillary molars. (Natural History Museum - London)
Restored pulp cavity on completion.
Pulp exposure treated six weeks previously with a nylon filling showing abrasion taking place. (African bull – 5 years old)
Seven months postoperatively the filling has been lost through abrasion, but the new secondary dentine barrier can be seen.
Seven year follow-up after both the tusks had been treated.