Chairman of the Department of Periodontics Dr. Christopher Cutler told the Augusta Chronicle the program is “a pioneering approach to solving a serious medical issue,” and said the implants had to be tested in animals before human trials could begin.
The program uses dogs because the types of diseases and bone loss the dogs experience are similar to what humans typically experience, Cutler said.
The Humane Society of the United States said in November that an undercover investigation revealed dogs being used in the program had teeth pulled and replaced with implants. The dogs were euthanized weeks afterward and researchers took jaw bone samples from them. News of the dental implant prompted accusations of animal cruelty and a small protest.
University officials have said the testing program is regularly reviewed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the university adheres to local, state and federal guidelines.
Cutler told the newspaper he was unsure of whether any other upcoming experiments would involve dogs, and the newspaper reports the school has been approved to continue using animals in research for the next three years.
“I think everyone would like to get completely away from animal research, but it is so important to medical research,” Cutler said. “Every major breakthrough in terms of medical devices, in terms of cancer drugs, has first been tested in animals because of the complexity of the biological systems.”