SYDNEY – Orcas living in captivity suffer serious damage to their teeth due to constantly biting metal bars and cement pieces, said a study carried out by New Zealand scientists published on Thursday.
The experts analyzed the cases of 29 orcas owned by a company in the United States and Spain and concluded that all of them have damaged their teeth, reported the Archives of Oral Biology, a scientific journal.
Sixty-five percent of the specimens studied suffered moderate to extreme dental damage and 60 percent had to undergo dental operations.
“Once the tooth gets worn to the point where the pulp is exposed this opens up a channel for disease and infection, so the staff then drill the teeth,” study co-author Carolina Loch of the University of Otago told Radio New Zealand.
Open cavities need to be cleaned with chemicals to prevent infection, while teeth that are drilled to remove tissue from the pulp found within these bony pieces also become weaker and brittle.
“We have documented more than 60 percent of the second and third teeth of the lower jaws were broken and this high number is likely linked to the drilling,” she added.
Principal author of the study, John Jett of the Stetson University in Florida, in the United States, said that damage to the teeth of the orcas begins from an early age when they are in captivity.