Here’s one occasion where the dentist might have been more afraid of the patient – when a 28-stone silverback gorilla needed treatment.
Pertinax, a western lowland gorilla, exposed a nerve after fracturing a tooth and needed root canal surgery.
Zoo staff feared the 33-year-old giant would develop an infection or abscess and called in animal dentist Peter Kertesz to take care of their great ape.
Pertinax was put to sleep on the floor of his compound at Paignton Zoo, Devon, as a team of staff assisted Peter for the 40-minute procedure.
He removed the damaged nerve tissue and replaced it with biocompatible material to preserve the tooth.
Jo Reynard, from the Paignton Zoo vet team, said: “When a tooth is fractured the living pulp becomes exposed.
“This can lead to an infection and an abscess.
“The dentist removed the pulp and replaced it with special biocompatible material, so preserving the tooth. It is quite an involved procedure.”
Gorillas have large razor sharp teeth, despite being herbivores, which they use to grind through tough plant material and bark.
They also have long canines which are used for display and to defend against external threats.
Peter was assisted by several vet nurses and other members of the team at Paignton Zoo in Devon and dental nurse Monika Mazurkiewicz.
Neil Bemment, Paignton Zoo curator, said: “We were really pleased that Peter was able to come and assist with Pertinax.
“Dentistry is a highly-specialist field, all the more so in exotic animals.
“Pertinax deserves the best and duly got it – the operation was a complete success.”
Peter, from London, got his first taste of animal dentistry in 1978 when he looked after a cat and over the years he has travelled the globe working on exotic species.
He said: “Animals or people, it’s all the same. They need treatment, they get treatment.
“The size is what varies, and the location. It is all about teamwork.”
While Pertinax was asleep zoo staff took the opportunity to give him a full health check before he came round and returned to his normal self the next day.