Improving veterinary dentistry: Partner with pet owners for better oral care (Sponsored by Greenies)
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. 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. 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 level.
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 only way.