A New Smile For Hermie The Turtle


Hermie the turtle is sporting a brand new smile today, thanks to a local dentist.

Hermie, a common map turtle at New York State Zoo at Thompson Park has undergone what is believed to be a medical first – turtle orthodontics.

Since being donated to NYS Zoo in May 2004, the young turtle has been under veterinary care for abnormal growth of its lower jaw due to metabolic bone disease. The lower jaw was growing downward preventing its mouth from closing fully and making eating difficult. Zookeepers fed it a special diet of worms and softened turtle sticks.

Although turtles do not have teeth, the solution for this problem is the same as for many teenagers with overbites – braces. A similar procedure has been successful for correcting bird beaks – but is likely a medical first in turtles.

Dr. Peter Virga, DDS and Dr. Jeffrey Baier, MS, DVM placed small pins into the turtle’s upper and lower beak – comparative to bonded brackets in human orthodontics. These pins are connected with standard human orthodontic ligatures (rubber bands.) The bands will be removed for one (1) hour daily to allow for feeding. It is anticipated the braces will correct the problem in one – six months.

While the braces are on, the turtle will be under daily monitoring by Dr. Baier and the animal care staff. After a 48-hour recovery period, the small turtle and its braces will be on display at the Zoo’s Discovery Center from 10am – 4pm daily.