A real (polar) bear of a dental patient

Kenneth the polar bear’s weekend got off to a rough start, with a much-needed trip to the dentist.

The 1,000-pound resident of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium endured three root canals, one extraction, four fillings and a deep cleaning during the Saturday morning procedure at the zoo’s new $3.4 million animal hospital.

The zoo’s other polar bear, Boris, had two root canals last November.

Kenneth and Boris came to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium after being among six polar bears rescued from a Mexican circus during Puerto Rico in November 2002.

Kenneth’s surgery, which took about five hours, was performed by Dr. Edmund Kwan, a Tukwila endodontist, and Dr. Rhonda Savage, who has a general dentistry practice in University Place. (For those who are wondering, an endodontist is a practitioner of the branch of dentistry that deals with diseases of the tooth root, dental pulp and surrounding tissue.) Also on the team was Dr. Jim Reed, an oral surgeon who practices in Edmonds, and his wife, Dr. Holly Reed, the zoo’s chief veterinarian. She gave Kenneth a complete physical while he was anesthetized for dental surgery.

Kenneth is believed to be 17 years old. In captivity, polar bears can live into their late 20s and early 30s. In the wild, polar bears seldom live beyond 18 to 20 years, and they certainly don’t receive high quality dental care.