Mayfair dentist travels 2,700 miles to treat 60-stone Russian walrus... for toothache

Anthony France
Mayfair dentist Dr Peter Kertesz flew to Russia for the 60-stone walrus

As any sufferer will tell you, there are few things more painful than toothache. And when you’re a 60-stone walrus, it’s agony on a whole different scale.

So when Nyusha developed an abscess, her keepers at the Black Sea aquarium reached out to a top London dentist to soothe her.

Dr Peter Kertesz was flown 2,700 miles from his practice in Mayfair, via Moscow, to operate on the 10-year-old mammal in Russia.

He told the Standard: “The trip took several months to organise but the surgery took just two hours. Nyusha had a very large abscess in her mouth and was in pain.

“It was a risky procedure and stressful for everyone but I’m happy she’s no longer suffering. Whether it’s working on humans or animals, you want to get it right.”

Mayfair dentist Dr Peter Kertesz treated the walrus in Russia

He was accompanied by dental nurse Monika Mazurkiewicz, a vet specialised in the use of anaesthetics and eight cases of medical equipment.

He added: “Once the animal is anaesthetised, you can’t say, ‘Sorry, I forgot an instrument. Can I fly back to London and come back next week?’”

Mr Kertesz qualified as a dentist in 1969. Nine years later he received a call from vet Bruce Fogle, father of broadcaster Ben, asking him to treat a cat with toothache.

“I went along to treat the animal and vowed, ‘Never again’,” he said. “But then I decided if I was going to do this, I had to be better equipped than anyone else in the world.”

Nyusha the Walrus at Russian aquarium

Over the years Mr Kertesz has also been invited to carry out work on the teeth of gorillas, aardvarks, elephants, monkeys, bears, dolphins and sea lions throughout Europe, South Korea, Hong Kong, Egypt, Israel and Iraq.

Lions and tigers are among his four-legged patients at The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent.

Mr Kertesz said he’s not worried about the dangers of being one of the world’s few zoo dentists. Specialist vets he takes with him have to tread a fine clinical line between anaesthetising the animals enough so they don’t “jump off the operating table” and not so deep that they are at higher risk.

The 60-stone walrus was suffering from severe toothache.

He added: “There have been one or two moments when the animals have become very light as the anaesthetic wore off prematurely.

“We can run quicker in our shoes than a sleepy walrus. I’ve always got total confidence in the vets doing the anaesthetic. It’s teamwork, not an individual effort.”

He said: “Humans need teeth for function, health and aesthetics. When it comes to animals, health is the number one priority, they have no interest in their appearance. Most of my animal work is either extractions, oral surgery or root fillings.”