The Beak – and Beak Orthodontics
Beak Anatomy – the beak tissue is “laid” down on top of two bones that are equivalent to the jaw bones in mammals – the lower jaw bone (the mandible) and the upper jaw bone (the maxilla) . The beak is made up of a skin like material containing minerals and modifications making it hard and it is quite similar to human nails or rhino horn. The beak has nerves in it and just like we humans can feel tooth ache the beak is quite sensitive. Maybe that is why so many parrots enjoy having their beaks rubbed by humans. The beak also has a good blood supply.
To maintain a healthy beak – there needs to be a balance between beak formation and wear. The primary ‘raw materials” for beak production come from the liver via the blood. Thus a bird with systemic disease, especially the liver may have an abnormal beak. An older bird that has had a normal beak for many years that suddenly becomes overgrown – is “screaming” for help – “do not just clip my beak!”
The “beak” of a bird is made up two main parts: The rhinotheca which is the upper beak attached to the maxillary bone, and the gnathotheca which is the lower beak attached to the mandible bone. . These two parts articulate with a more complex joint mechanism than the human jaw and therefore can have more potential problems.
We at Bird Vet Melbourne commonly see fractures of the beak. Common causes are trauma from being bitten by another parrot in the same cage or a damaged beak from flying into things. “Wild life” birds are often presented with damaged beaks from motor vehicle injuries. Avian vets repair beaks with a combination of orthopaedic equipment and dental bonding and composite agents.
Last week Dr Phil did two beak repairs and two dog teeth restorations using essentially identical technique and products.
The key to success in many of these common beak problems is that they are dealt with as soon as possible. If the patient is stable we do beak repair on the same day as admission, and even occasionally while an owner waits, if they have come in form far. Time is the “enemy” of beak pathology. The beak has a blood supply that must be preserved and a bony base that needs to be kept sterile and nourished to support new beak growth and eventual repair.
In our case, Bluey a 2 year old budgerigar presented on the 22/02/17 with the top beak, sitting inside the bottom beak , the condition is also called – Mandibular Prognathisim. As the bottom beak grew longer it became harder and harder for Bluey to open his little mouth to take in seed and other food to eat. (Picture 1).
Bluey underwent a general anesthetic, and the excess beak growth trimmed and burred smooth using a veterinary dental drill. Then came the “body piercing”. Yes Bluey got a “beak piercing” – our avian veterinary nurses thought the beak piercing was pretty cool and compared it to their own body piercings. The “Jewelry” a small stainless steel bar was put in the piercing hole. (Picture 2 ) The bar was be used to anchor and support the new acrylic beak to the original beak. Using Veterinary dental techniques we prepared the tip of the beak with small grooves, using a vet dental bur, to increase the surface area for the new acrylic beak to attach. We added “acid etching” to the top beak . Next a bonding agent was applied to it, as we do for doggy dental fillings, and dentalrestorations for dog and cat teeth. Then the dental acrylic was placed, meticulously shaped and light cured with a blue dental light to make it harden very rapidly. (See picture 3 )
Bluey recovered well after the surgical procedure in a warm hospital cage. He was crop fed twice, about two hours apart and went home soon after. We expect the beak implant to stay on 7 -14 days. In that time the beak will realign.
Today is the 25/02/17 and it is three days since the procedure (picture 4). Bluey is doing well and the implant is still in place. We are planning to remove the implant in about 2 weeks unless it has come off earlier.