His business card says "General Dentistry, Adults and Children," but recently Nick St. George found himself peering into a horse's mouth and hoping he wasn't about to be bit by a set of stained, 30-millimeter teeth.
"I was a little apprehensive," said St. George, 40, who rehearsed in his Downey dental office on an extracted horse tooth before he began working on the 3-year-old gelding, Zane Bay. "I hadn't done bonding on a horse before."
Neither has anybody else, to the knowledge of Don Vrono, Zane Bay's veterinarian. Nevertheless, owners Jim and Marilyn Buckman wanted the cosmetic dental procedure used on a crescent-shaped chip on Zane Bay's upper front incisor--no small detail in a show horse worth more than $7,000.
"The whole thing turned out so well, I guess you'd say I got a kick out of it," said St. George.
But he isn't anxious to become known as a horse doctor.
"I doubt I'd do it again," he said. "I'm still waiting for reaction from other doctors in the area."
The idea for the unusual procedure came from Marilyn Buckman, who liked the cosmetic bonding St. George did on her teeth and asked him if he would take Zane Bay as a patient.
"I said yes," recalls St. George. "I thought she was joking."
But a few weeks later, Marilyn Buckman brought him the practice tooth. St. George was intrigued. He agreed to give it a try.
By all accounts, Zane Bay tolerated the procedure well.
He was sedated with an injection of long-acting tranquilizer and three booster shots from veterinarian Vrono.
First, St. George cleaned the tooth with a rotary grinder on a portable drill. Then he applied a fluid to etch the outer layer of tooth enamel.
Yellow and Gray Coloring
"You leave it on for one minute on a person," St. George said. "I left it for two minutes on the horse." Then he applied a sealer and, finally, the resin, colored yellow and gray to match Zane Bay's other teeth. Finally, he hardened the resin under a fiber-optic light.
St. George isn't sure how long the new tooth will last, and he didn't charge for his work. "Horses like to chew on rocks and wood and things," he said.
Back in his stall, the first thing Zane Bay did was grab a mouthful of hard-packed hay--no easy initiation for a resin tooth.
The tooth held. Being ridden twice with a bit hasn't disturbed his new bridgework either.
Buckman said she's delighted.
And Zane Bay?
According to Buckman: "He doesn't seem to care at all."