BAINBRIDGE, GA (WALB) –People typically have thirty-two teeth. But a Bainbridge dentist is working on a patient with seventy-six teeth, all canines.
His patient is an alligator.
WALB News10's LeiLani Golden explains how the stuffed alligator head ended up in Dr. Chip Walden's dentist chair.
It's a pretty common saying heard around a dentist office.
"I need you to open up as big as an alligator."
But at Bainbridge's Port City Family Dentist, they're taking it literally.
"It's been a big source of fun for my patients when they're being escorted back for their appointments," says Dr. Chip Walden.
"It's something different," says a parent, Shermeka McGee. "I didn't expect to see an alligator head at the dentist."
"I thought it was alive," admits 10 year old Amaya Taylor, one of the dentist's patients.
As a favor to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake Seminole office, Dr. Hillman "Chip" Walden is filling some teeth in the head of "Fred," a large stuffed alligator head.
"It's weird working on a gator," Dr. Walden explains. "I like the fact that he can open wide and he never tires and closes on me. I don't have to wait for an anesthesiologist, he doesn't move, and I can move him into positions that I can't do with a human patient."
Fred the alligator washed up on a road during the 1994 flood. He was stuffed and has been on display ever since. And although his teeth look dirty...
Taylor points out, "They need to be cleaned."
...Dr. Walden was impressed by their condition.
"Actually, this gator's dental health is pretty good barring accident," he says. "There's no evidence of decay because of a non-processed food diet."
He says his patients can learn from Fred.
"Healthy eating leads to better teeth."
And people are sure to remember this unusual dental patient,
"Each time we come back he'll always think about the alligator head, 'Is it still gonna be there mom?" predicts McGee of her son.
Taylor summed up her feelings, "It was a weird day."
Even though they must say later to this very special gator.
Dr. Walden is waiting on a shipment of a special, dark filling material to finish the job.
He doesn't expect many more stuffed patients because he says alligators are one of the few animals whose teeth are a main attraction and therefore preserved with their mouths open.
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