Byline: Associated Press
GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — Dr. Andy Norowski used dental techniques to rebuild the broken shell of an endangered sea turtle.
The turtle — nicknamed “Rocky” — is on the mend at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.
Norowski told WLOX-TV that the turtle has gone through some adversity, including a boat propeller injury and a previous shark bite.
“The turtle shell is made of keratin, which is different from tooth enamel,” Norowski said. He built a series of dental acrylic pieces to “get the shell to heal in a more natural, biologic way.” Along with the dental acrylic shell sections, orthodontic appliances are attached to allow for growth.
Wendy Hatchett, who works at the institute, has been helping treat the injured turtle.
“We realized that he had a previous injury, more than likely caused by a shark. He had only half of a fore flipper on the left side, half of a hind flipper on the left side and a large bite taken out of him,” she said.
Hatchett said Rocky is making good progress and doesn’t seem to mind his dental acrylic shell sections.
“He has been able to regain the use of his hind legs,” Hatchett explained. “When he first came in, they were paralyzed. And a couple (of) weeks ago, we noticed he was able to draw them back and regain the use of his hind legs, so that was pretty exciting.”
Norowski said Rocky is the first turtle he’s worked on. He found some advice on the Internet from a dentist in Florida, who had previously worked on rebuilding a turtle shell.