by 81st Medical Support Squadron
The 81st Dental Squadron staff had an unusual patient for a May 15 root canal. Military working dog Toki is a 6-year-old male German Shepherd assigned to 81st Security Forces dog handler Staff Sgt. James Wader. Toki is dual-certified as a patrol and explosives detection dog.
As Army veterinary technicians Spc. Ariel Burden and Pfc. Kourtney Littlejohn performed a routine cleaning of Toki's teeth on May 13, they discovered that one of his upper canine teeth had an open pulp cavity that required a root canal procedure.
Veterinarian Lt. Col. (Dr.) Joseph Harre explained they had been keeping an eye on the tooth for a couple of years since the tip had been worn, but the canal had remained sealed until it was examined during the dental cleaning. They believe they caught it early because Toki's handler said it hadn't affected his behavior, appetite or ability to work.
Harre contacted Col. (Dr.) Timothy Kirkpatrick, 81st DS endodontics residency program director, and asked if they could perform a root canal procedure on Toki, a procedure they have done previously for other Keesler military working dogs requiring similar treatment. However, only one dog may need the procedure every year or so.
A canine root canal is similar to performing one on a person. However, because a dog's canine tooth pulp cavity that houses the tooth's nerve root is much longer and curved compared to the human pulp cavity, the treatment involves a slightly different approach.
The dental squadron has the proper equipment and the expertise to perform canine root canal procedures on the government-owned animals. In addition, Kirkpatrick believes it is good training for their dental residents in case they are called upon to treat a MWD while stationed elsewhere.
In addition, since a MWD is relied upon to be able to perform, preserving a canine tooth needed for proper bite work may allow the dog to continue working instead of being retired.
During the procedure, the veterinary staff anesthetized Toki and Maj. (Dr.) Ross Yost and his dental team performed the root canal. Team members included Kirkpatrick, dental technicians Staff Sgt. Eva Williams and Airman 1st Class Drake Futch and dental assistant Senior Airman Brandi Jordan.
The procedure went very smoothly and, after a brief reprieve from bite work, Toki is expected to continue performing his security duties with his handler.