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Florida Keys Dentist Mends Sea Turtle’s Broken Shell

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Florida Keys dentist Fred Troxel, left, examines repairs he made to the fractured shell of Elena, an endangered green sea turtle, at the Keys-based Turtle Hospital Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Marathon, Fla.  At right is Bette Zirkelbach, the hospital's manager. On Wednesday, Sept. 11, Troxel utilized a denture repair adhesive to bond two metal orthopedic plates across a 10-inch split on the turtle’s carapace. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Florida Keys dentist Fred Troxel, left, examines repairs he made to the fractured shell of Elena, an endangered green sea turtle, at the Keys-based Turtle Hospital Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Marathon, Fla. At right is Bette Zirkelbach, the hospital’s manager. On Wednesday, Sept. 11, Troxel utilized a denture repair adhesive to bond two metal orthopedic plates across a 10-inch split on the turtle’s carapace. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

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MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Mike Minor #36 of the Atlanta Braves pitches during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 11, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

MARATHON (CBSMiami/FKNB) – Elena, a 40-pound adolescent green sea turtle, has a Florida Keys dentist to thank for mending her fractured shell.

Elena the endangered sea turtle has been cared for at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital for a month since it was recovered from a Key West beach. Officials believe it was beached after being struck by a boat.

The turtle, listed as critical since its arrival, needed treatment which included administering a broad-spectrum antibiotic and vitamins as well as tube-feeding each day.

Earlier in the week the turtle began eating on its own—that’s when caretakers began to focus on mending the reptile’s broken shell.

Elena, an endangered green sea turtle, rests in a recovery tank at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Marathon, Fla. On Wednesday, Sept. 11, Florida Keys dentist Fred Troxel utilized a denture repair adhesive to bond two metal orthopedic plates across a 10-inch split on the turtle’s carapace. The turtle has been convalescing at the hospital for a month since it was recovered from a Key West, Fla., beach. Hospital officials say the turtle was likely inadvertently struck by a boat. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Elena, an endangered green sea turtle, rests in a recovery tank at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Marathon, Fla. On Wednesday, Sept. 11, Florida Keys dentist Fred Troxel utilized a denture repair adhesive to bond two metal orthopedic plates across a 10-inch split on the turtle’s carapace. The turtle has been convalescing at the hospital for a month since it was recovered from a Key West, Fla., beach. Hospital officials say the turtle was likely inadvertently struck by a boat. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Dentist Fred Troxel, on Thursday, examined Elena. Having had treated the turtle the day before at the Turtle Hospital, Troxel utilized a denture repair adhesive to bond two metal orthopedic plates across a 10-inch split on the turtle’s carapace.

“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 dentist used an adhesive used for denture repair, an acrylic resin which thus far is holding the two plates tightly across the shell’s fracture.

“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.”

Bette Zirkelbach is optimistic that Elena will one day recover where releasing her back into the ocean is an option.

Despite the dentist’s success, Elena has a long road for a full recovery. The turtle needs surgical removal of several tumors caused by a herpes-like virus that affects sea turtles around the world.

But Bette Zirkelbach, the turtle hospital’s manager, is optimistic that Elena will one day recover where releasing her back into the ocean is possible.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)

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