Boris the Polar Bear Gets a Root Canal

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DEAN J. KOEPFLER / MCT / Getty Images

Boris the Polar bear underwent a full physical exam at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium's animal hospital in Tacoma, Wash., Feb. 23, 2013.

While a trip to the dentist is nobody’s idea of fun, even the person holding the drill gets nervous when the patient is a 900 lb. polar bear.

Boris, a resident of the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Wash., was suffering from an infected tooth and desperately needed specialist medical attention. After receiving a tranquilizer shot, he settled in for a 4-hour procedure to clean up and fix his ailing canine.

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“All of us worry about him and love him,” said zookeeper Cindy Roberts, according to the U.K. Mirror. “We spend more time with the animals than we do with our own families.”

Boris lives in the Arctic Tundra enclosure at Port Defiance and has become a favorite draw for visitors. In addition to his root canal, he was given a thorough check-up by a team of a dozen vets, including having a growth removed from his eyelid and his enormous talon-like claws clipped.

The 27-year-old was born in Rostock Zoo, Germany, but then somehow ended up performing in a Mexican traveling circus. U.S. animal welfare officials eventually rescued him in Puerto Rico in 2002, reports the Daily Mail. Other than a touch of arthritis, Boris was deemed to be in excellent health considering his advanced years. Polar bears rarely live beyond 25, although the oldest captive on record was a female who held out until age 43.

Oddly, there is more than one celebrity polar bear called Boris. The other — actually a 12-foot statue of a polar bear — was unveiled in London’s Sloane Square last month to highlight the plight of the critically endangered animal, according  to the Kensington and Chelsea Chronicle. And while the Tacoma Boris may be feeling his age slightly, his British cousin is embracing modern technology with more than 200 followers on Twitter.

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Boris playing in his enclosure earlier this year: [youtube=]