Skip to main content

How do you brush a monster's teeth?

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Armed with a tiny toothbrush, zookeepers are determined to give our gila monster some minty, fresh breath. 

Gila monster extreme close-up. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

We don’t recommend trying this at home—gila monsters are one of only a handful of venomous lizards—but do watch what it takes for the keepers to ensure the oral health of an aging, 43-year-old male gila monster here at Woodland Park Zoo.

Video: Monster gets his teeth brushed. Produced by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

The tooth brushing and regular antibiotics help with the gila monster’s gingivitis and gum inflammation, not uncommon in aging lizards. As you can see in the video, he’s quite cooperative, allowing one keeper to hold him in place while the other gently brushes. The toothpaste leaves him with that fresh-from-the-dentist gleam. When placed back into his exhibit, he always takes a big drink of water as if to rinse!

Back on exhibit. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

As his oral health improves, we probably won’t need to brush his teeth as often. But he seems to enjoy the experience and is quite cooperative, so we’ll keep it up at least some of the time as part of his ongoing care.

Credit goes to our incredible team of zookeepers and veterinarians for assessing this old reptile’s mouth troubles, coming up with a treatment plan, and committing to the care day in and day out with extraordinary patience and dedication. That’s one lucky, fresh-breathed monster!

Fresh to death. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Keeping our animals’ mouths in good health is an important part of providing them with the best care. Take a closer look at animal teeth in this Delta Dental of Washington article to see what we’re working with.

Trick-or-treaters are in for some fun at the zoo. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Pumpkin Bash presented by Delta Dental of Washington is coming up Oct. 26 & 27. There will be trick-or-treating, and don’t forget to stop by the Delta Dental booth for a little treat and to learn more about keeping your own mouth gleaming even after you eat all that Halloween candy.