With advances in dental procedures and home care products, the veterinary dental care offered today is better than ever. Yet,
there is always room for improvement, and some pets are not receiving the care they need and deserve. Recently, a group of
veterinary dental experts got together to discuss gold standards in veterinary oral care and how practitioners could deploy
this care in their hospitals and engage clients to practice oral care at home.
Today's veterinary dental care
Dr. Karyl Hurley (moderator): Let's start off our discussion with how you would summarize the state of veterinary dental care and what breakthroughs have
been made in this area.
Dr. Brook Niemiec: There is a shift in our approach to treating periodontal disease. What we have done in the past was focus on controlling the
pathogen—plaque control. Now we are not only doing that, but we are also focusing on decreasing inflammation through the use
of products such as fatty acids and statins. We also have bone regeneration agents.
Brook Niemiec, DVM, DAVDC, FAVD Owner of Southern California Veterinary Dental Specialties in San Diego, Calif., and president
of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry
Dr. James Anthony: For the new veterinary dentist or practitioner, the biggest breakthrough may be diagnostic dental radiography. Certain radiography
systems available today have made diagnosis a lot easier. With electronic media, practitioners can email radiographs to any
boarded veterinary dentist. As a result, animals are treated more effectively and more appropriately.
Dr. Jan Bellows: In our practice, the commercially available oral test strip has made a giant difference. It starts white, and if there is
significant periodontal disease, it turns yellow. The degree of color change seems to correlate with the degree of periodontal
disease. Every patient in for a wellness examination or vaccine examination gets one. Clients see that what they thought was
doggie breath is periodontal disease, and they are coming in to have their animal's teeth cleaned under anesthesia a lot quicker.
Dr. Niemiec: We see an emerging trend of specialists doing highly advanced procedures—implants, periodontal surgery, and root canals, for
example. In many ways, some animals get better dental care than many people do. However, dental specialists care for a small
percent- age of the pet population. Only perhaps 3% to 5% of general practices are doing a really good job. There are still
many general practices that are not providing adequate dental care to their patients.
Dr. Bellows: Veterinarians are trying to do a better job in this area. There are more veterinarians purchasing dental radiography machines,
and wet labs are filled up. Clinicians recognize that dentistry is an important part of an animal's well-being, and they want
to improve the dental care they offer.
Jan Bellows, DVM, DAVDC, DABVP, FAVD Owner of All Pets Dental in Weston, Fla., and president-elect of the American Veterinary
Dr. Anthony: Unfortunately, many of the veterinary schools are lacking in teaching dental education. Most practitioners have to seek outside
educational experiences just to raise their skills in dentistry to a minimum level of competency. Practitioners have the desire
to do a good job, but they do not have the necessary skills or background to do it properly.
Ms. Debbie Boone: In multidoctor practices, there is often only one doctor who is excited about dentistry. That is the one who seeks further
education, goes to wet labs, and actually trains the technical team. Within a practice, there can be a huge range in skill
Ms. Mary Berg: We also see a lack of dental education within technician programs, yet one of our main jobs as veterinary technicians is the
dental cleaning procedure. A lot of practices use the dental arena as a major profit center, which leads to a do-as-many-in-aday-
as-possible mentality. Patients may or may not get any benefit from this quick-and-dirty approach. In some clinics, technicians
perform 10 cleanings a day. There is no way to do a good job at that pace. Taking your time and doing it correctly is the