Dental Tribune USA
Captain Melissa Ruff performs root canal treatment on a military working dog, assisted by hospitalman Jonathan Lamberth, Captain Kelly Horgan and veterinary tech Krystal Tronboll. (Photo: American Association of Endodontists)

Military working dog undergoes root canal treatment

By Dental Tribune USA
July 26, 2019

CHICAGO, Ill., USA: The military is serious business. So is saving one’s natural teeth — even for four-legged service members, which is why Dr. Melissa Ruff, a captain in the U.S. Navy, 1st Dental Battalion/Naval Dental Center Camp Pendleton and an endodontist, recently performed a root canal treatment on a military working dog.

“During my 20 years of service, I have only worked on human sailors and marines. This was the first time I treated a military K9,” Ruff said. “This was a very special and fun experience, and I was extremely honored to treat a military K9, who performs amazing work and saves lives.”

The dog, a Belgian Malinois, is considered a military service member, holds non-commissioned officer rank, and performs detection and patrol work, such as bomb sniffing and many other operations with military personal.

It’s vital for the military dogs to keep their natural teeth, maintaining bite strength to fully perform their jobs. The dog needed the tooth-saving treatment after an Army Veterinary Corps officer noticed two broken teeth that needed root canal treatment.

According to Ruff, the procedure, which was performed on July 2, was similar to treating a human, although a dog’s root canal is a lot longer. While teeth of dogs are a different shape and size, the advanced technology endodontists use, like specialized microscope and rotary instruments, helped ensure the procedure went smoothly and was a success.

“The Army veterinarians knew of the endodontic specialty and that endodontists have advanced training in saving teeth. When their K9 needed root canal, they sought an endodontist,” Ruff said. “The dog is now doing great. The officer updated me that the K9 is much happier after he got his teeth fixed.”

Ruff is a Captain in the U.S. Navy. She is also a member of the American Association of Endodontists (AAE). The AAE is headquartered in Chicago and represents more than 8,000 members worldwide. More information about the AAE is available online, at

(Source: American Association of Endodontists)

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