Trauma to the teeth of sea lions and seals is very frequent. The resultant infection is a serious threat to health and a major therapeutic issue.
Pulp exposure of the sea lion teeth can occur at any age. The aetiology is usually wear through abrasion. It may be through chewing the fabric of the pool or the animals carrying pebbles in their mouths. The wear is usually at such a rapid rate that the deposition of reparative dentine is unable to prevent pulp exposures.
Invariably numerous teeth are affected through the trauma and sometimes all the animal’s teeth can become exposed over a relatively short period. These teeth in marine parks are not used for prehension or mastication as the food is swallowed whole. Therefore one must take a long-term and practical view of the prognosis of the damaged dentition as any conservative approach to preserve them would be extremely poor.
When the teeth are immature with dilated apical foraminae, pulp polyps can extrude from the exposed pulp cavities.
Eventually the pulp will become necrotic and periapical abscesses will develop. Because of the number of teeth normally involved, pulp therapy would be too prolonged a procedure.
The canine teeth of sea lions have a prolonged period of development to their roots and their apical foraminae remain dilated until at least the age of 8 years. Therefore, root canal therapy of these teeth is not a practical option.
Submandibular sinus tract caused by a discharging peripaical abscess from a fractured mandibular incisor.
Labial sinus tracts caused by a fractured and infected canine tooth.
The teeth of sea lions with pulp exposures should be extracted as the treatment of choice. The roots of the canine teeth are extremely bulbous as demonstrated by this immature tooth. The surgery must be performed with the utmost care to avoid mandibular fractures. It should not be attempted unless the operator has had extensive experience in oral surgery and is fully equipped for the task.