3:28 PM PT -- We spoke with the folks over at Done In One who tell us THEY were the ones to first reach out to Erik. They first got in touch with Jeff and Lauren, who set up the connection with Cowie. We're told Lowe handled Erik's flight to Florida ... but the plan from the beginning was to give Erik the new chompers for free.
Erik Cowie, one of the ''Tiger King' stars who you saw caring for the zoo's animals, has a nice new set of chompers -- a gift from the man in charge, Jeff Lowe.
Sources close to the GW Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma tell TMZ ... though Erik interacts with the public daily -- leading tours and answering questions about all the animals -- he has a hard time connecting with people, because he's always been self-conscious about his smile and felt bad about his teeth.
We're told Jeff and his wife Lauren wanted to do something nice for Erik -- who's still the head zookeeper like he was for Joe Exotic -- for all the hard work he does at the park.
So, our sources say Jeff surprised Erik and flew him down to Florida, where he'd arranged for him to get permanent teeth implants installed at Done In One ... which does the job in 48 hours.
We're told the dental center got his mouth all fixed up, and even decided the procedure was on the house. As you can see, Erik's one happy customer.
As you may recall ... Cowie was a sympathetic character in the 'Tiger King' docuseries, as he seemed greatly impacted by Joe's alleged mistreatment of animals. He later testified at his trial that Joe killed older tigers to make space for new animals, and expressed guilt he couldn't do anything to stop it.
Erik's also on record saying he doesn't believe Joe should get out of prison.
BTW, Erik's not the first 'Tiger King' star to get new teeth ... Exotic's ex-husband John Finlay blazed that trail months ago, and almost looked like a whole new person afterward.