Meet the Chichester dentist who works with the 'monstrous' teeth of lions, tigers and bears

Some of the damage done to a bears teeth
Some of the damage done to a bears teeth

Paul Cassar runs his own dental practice in Chichester's West Street where, day to day, clients teeth troubles range from flossing to fillings. But since 2002, Paul's clients have had a bit more of a bite.

Paul, who lives in Liss in Hampshire, began working with Uckfield-based charity International Animal Rescue around 16 years ago, during which time he has worked with lions, tigers, bears, leopards, slow lorises and orangutans.

Paul, right, with a team working on a bear

Paul, right, with a team working on a bear

He said: "A lot of people ask me, are animals teeth the same as human teeth, can we work on them the same? Obviously that's not quite true. Animals teeth, especially the bears and the tigers and the lions of this world even the hyenas that we've treated — their teeth are monstrously big compared to our teeth.

"We still use human techniques because the human animal is the animal we know most about but we modify those techniques in the treatment of animals. The equipment that we use is basically human equipment nowadays we are getting modified, larger pieces which help us with treating animals teeth.

"Animals suffer all the same diseases humans do with their teeth and so they do need special care."

The charity has centres in India, Borneo, Costa Rica, Java and the latest sanctuary in Armenia and relies on donations to cover the costs of flying volunteers out to the sanctuaries and medical equipment.

Another bear Paul and his team worked with

Another bear Paul and his team worked with

The sanctuaries give the animals a 'new lease of life' by giving the animals vast areas to roam. Most cannot be released into the wild because they wouldn't be able to survive, according to Paul.

Paul's most recent trip took him to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, where he worked primarily with bears that had been rescued from captivity.

After being asked to become a trustee of the charity by his friend Alan Night, which Paul called a 'great honour and privilege', Paul began to look for more contacts.

He said: "I needed to find a vet who could help me. Vets know nothing about teeth just like doctors don't but I googled for veterinary dentists and I happened, on that day, to come across Lisa Milella.

Working with animals isn't Paul's mane job

Working with animals isn't Paul's mane job

"When I told her about the project with 600-800 bears with four broken teeth in India that we needed to help, she immediately said that she'd help and Lisa brought with her into the project a vast level of experience and skill and learning which complemented what I was trying to achieve and Lisa and I worked together for 12 years until she got motor neurone five years ago.

"She is still actively involved in the charity as a trustee and the Armenian trip that you saw has been dedicated to the Lisa Milella foundation. We are raising money to help people who want to help animals with tooth problems anywhere in the world and carry forward her legacy.

"The highs for me? The challenge of treating an exotic animal, getting the team together to do the work efficiently and properly the satisfaction of knowing that you leave the animals in a better position once they finish their treatment than before their treatment. Working with fantastic people who are very dedicated is always an enjoyable thing."

Find more information on the charity here: www.internationalanimalrescue.org.uk

Paul said the animals have fillings, root canals and crowns fitted

Paul said the animals have fillings, root canals and crowns fitted

Paul and his team with a hyena

Paul and his team with a hyena