TAMPA, Fla. -- On most days, he is in his dental office in Lutz, filling cavities and conducting cleanings but sometimes, you can find this dentist taking a break from people and taking a walk on the wild side.
“Being a dentist is not typically considered a cool thing to do, this is definitely cool,” said Dr. Bill Geyer, following the operation of a root canal on a 100-pound cheetah at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
Geyer said he went to school to fix the teeth of people not the fastest land animal on earth.
“I am a 100-percent human dentist every day of the week,” said Geyer.
However, about 10 years ago, a Busch Gardens veterinarian asked him for advice regarding an orangutan and the rest is history.
“Every time a dental issue comes up, whether it’s trauma or infection or just a question they don’t have an answer to, they call me and I give them my best opinion based on my human experience,’ said Geyer.
“We’ve worked on tigers, gorillas, chimpanzees, hippos, lemurs, otters and kangaroos,” said Geyer.
Geyer said once you get up close and personal, teeth are teeth, but the biggest challenge is finding the right-sized instrument.
“The essential anatomy of a tooth and function of a tooth are the same in every animal,” said Geyer. “I am at the complete mercy of the anesthesiology team here, and I trust them implicitly.”
Busch Gardens said it’s nice knowing they can rely on friends outside the park when it comes to caring for their thousands of animals.
“While in vet school, I may have learned something about dentistry. I am by no means an expert, and this is really a specialty of his of course,” said veterinarian Maria Spriggs with the Cheetah Care Team.
Geyer admits there are certainly some benefits when it comes to comparing animals to people.
“They’ve never called and complained afterwards,” said Geyer.