SEMBACH, Germany -- When you think of Army dental care, you naturally think of care for Soldiers. However, when a military working dog in Germany recently required repairs to a fractured tooth, Dental Health Activity Rhineland-Pfalz jumped at the chance to help out the furry four-legged patient.
“This was not my first time doing a root canal, or dental work, on a military working dog,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Aileen Cabanada-Logan, chief of endodontics for Dental Health Activity Rhineland-Pfalz. “I have completed a total of seven root canals on military working dogs during my military career. However, this was my first time providing a root canal retreatment on a working dog, it’s a little more challenging.”
Cabanada-Logan, along with Omar Medina, an endodontics assistant, partnered with a veterinary team from Public Health Activity Rhineland-Pfalz, to help the MWD return to duty.
“It’s vital for military working dogs to keep their natural teeth, maintaining bite strength to fully perform their jobs,” Cabanada-Logan added. “The dog, Mmontauk, a 3-year-old female Belgian Malinois assigned to the 525th Military Working Dog Detachment, fractured her upper right canine causing her existing root canal to be exposed and contaminated. She was evaluated by a civilian veterinary dentist who recommended the treatment.”
The procedure was performed on May 13 at Veterinary Medical Center Europe in Kaiserslautern and Cabanada-Logan says the work was similar to performing a root canal on a human.
“The biggest difference was the overall length of the tooth,” she said. “The average length of a human maxillary canine is 26.5mm. Mmontauk's tooth was 35mm and that was measured from the fracture. It would have been at least 45mm if her entire tooth had been intact.”
While dogs’ teeth are a different shape and size, the advanced training that endodontists have, and the specialized equipment they use like microscopes, apex locators, ultrasonics, and rotary instruments, helped the veterinary team ensure the procedure went smoothly and was a success.
“I feel so privileged to work on these magnificent animals who do so much for the Army and it makes me very happy to be a part of their dental treatment team.” added Cabanada-Logan. “I love sharing my specialty and the latest innovations to treat military working dogs.”
The dental procedure performed on Mmontauk was truly a team effort consisting of Army dental and veterinary experts.
“Having our dental colleagues available to provide their expertise and collaboration was extremely valuable,” said Maj. (Dr.) Gretchen Powers, an Army veterinarian assigned to the Army Veterinary Medical Center Europe in Kaiserslautern. “Caring for military working dogs is the most important and rewarding aspect of my job.
“It is my passion and I am honored to be part of the team that helps ensure MWDs are happy, healthy, and ready to complete their mission and support their handlers,” added Powers. “They do so much for us and ask so little in return and we owe them the best possible care.”
According to the Department of Defense, there are currently an estimated 2,300 military working dogs in service across the globe. Military working dogs are considered a military service member, hold non-commissioned officer rank, perform detection and patrol work, such as bomb sniffing and many other operations alongside military personal.