Florida Keys Dentist Mends Endangered Green Sea Turtle's Shell

Fred Troxel used a denture repair adhesive to bond two metal plates across a 10-inch split on the shell

When the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Fla., needed help fixing an endangered green sea turtle’s fractured shell, dentist Fred Troxel turned out to be the man for the job.

Elena, a 40-pound adolescent turtle, had a 10-inch split on her shell, and staffers were having trouble getting things to stick to the shell. So on Wednesday, Troxel used a denture repair adhesive to bond two metal orthopedic plates across the split, the Florida Keys News Bureau reported.

A month ago Elena was recovered from a Key West beach. Officials believed she had been struck by a boat. The reptile was in critical condition when she arrived at the hospital, which has been caring for her since.

Her treatment included daily tube feeding, but earlier this week Elena began eating on her own – so officials began to focus on fixing her shell, the Florida Keys News Bureau reported.

“Classically, they (hospital staff) had problems with getting things to adhere to the shell, so as a dentist they were asking me to help them figure out what might be the materials that can do it," Troxel said. "Maybe I had something in my toolbox."

The Florida Keys dentist came up with the denture repair adhesive, which is holding the two plates tightly across the fracture so far, according to the Florida Keys News Bureau.

"Modern dentistry is about bonding restorative materials to teeth, which are organic substances," Troxel said. "In this case we are bonding something that's a mechanical device to an organic substance, which is the turtle shell."

Elena still has a long recovery ahead, but hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach said she’s very optimistic that the turtle can eventually be released back into the ocean.

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