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Tooth Extractions From
Live-captured White-tailed Deer


The necessary tools for tooth extraction are a dental elevator (#9), used to separate the gum from the tooth, and a dental forceps (#13), for pulling the tooth from its socket (Bergerud and Russell 1966). I immobilized deer with xylazine hydrochloride and ketamine hydrochloride (Kreeger 1996) for removal from Clover traps or rocket-nets. I kept deer anesthetized throughout the processing and administered penicillin before reversing the xylazine with yohimbine hydrochloride (Mech et al. 1985). I generally extracted a tooth about 20 minutes after immobilization.

dental tools
Dental forceps and elevator used to extract incisorform teeth.

To begin an extraction, I place the deer's head in a secure position and select one of the canines for extraction. Bergerud and Russell (1966) suggested holding the head on the operator's knee. I prefer to have the head against the ground and then kneel to perform the extraction. While holding the jaw steady and parting the lips with one hand, I hold the elevator in the other hand with my index finger near the tip. This finger position maximizes control over the elevator, which prevents slippage into adjacent gum tissue and bone (Wiggs and Lobprise 1997). By gently pushing the elevator between the tooth and gum while rotating it around the tooth, the ligaments holding the tooth to the bone are weakened. Any bleeding is minor and ceases soon after the extraction. I then make prying movements to further loosen the ligaments. By placing the elevator between the canine and the adjacent incisor and then prying sideways, the tooth loosens rapidly.

canine extraction
Extracting a canine from an anaesthetized deer by means of a dental elevator (lying on right) and forceps.

Deeper penetration of the elevator and further pressure then nearly complete the process. The objective is to have a very loose, wobbly tooth that can be rotated easily with one's fingers. Finally, I place the dental forceps over the tooth so that the forceps tips are below the gum line. Slow, even, upward pressure then pulls the tooth free from the socket. Sometimes a little additional rotation may be needed. However, the use of much force often results in a broken tooth, indicating that the loosening by the elevator was inadequate. This is a common mistake when learning the procedure. The elevator should be used to almost complete the extraction. If the canine is broken during extraction, I next select the other canine for removal. I have extracted the adjacent incisor (I3) on the rare occasion when first-time operators broke both canines. The procedure, once learned, routinely takes <5 minutes.

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