AAHA tackles dental protocols

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Nov 01, 2005
By dvm360.com staff

DENVER — The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Dental Care Guidelines aim to change veterinarians' approach to dental cases — the first in many steps that will examine the way dentistry is practiced.

The association says the guidelines are expected to broaden the profession's understanding of dental care while providing DVMs with physical evidence to offer clients when discussing the importance of dental health.

"After reading the dental guidelines, practitioners will approach dental cases differently," says Dr. Jan Bellows, Dipl. AVDC, Dipl. ABVP, All Pets Dental Clinic and task force member. "Dental care really needs to be considered tooth-by-tooth; there isn't a broad explanation to answer all dental questions."

There's a big push for client education, Bellows adds.

The AAHA dental care guidelines emphasize the importance of home care to prevent disease, and they outline:

  • Materials needed to practice dentistry,
  • Necessary instruments and equipment for dental procedures,
  • Protective devices,
  • Required medical record information,
  • Pre-anesthesia exams,
  • Steps for cleaning and treatment of periodontal disease and other conditions.

Assessing each patient based on history and physical examination along with life stage is important, too.

"Dental radiology is available in only 10 percent of practices, although dental X-rays are recommended," Bellows says. " These guidelines give vets a foundation — direction that keeps all practitioners that use them on the same page."

The guidelines are available to all veterinarians on AAHA's Web site.

"Undisclosed periodontal disease is the most common problem in companion animal dentistry," Bellows says. "It starts with plaque, then spans to bad breath and pockets. Bacteria grows under the gumline and dislodges ligaments to the gumline, then food gathers in the pockets. My greatest hope would be veterinarians see this type of dental problem much less often in patients after introducing the guidelines to their practices."

Making of the guidelines

The task force members worked in groups to devise advice for the various dental issues, then, they rotated until each member addressed each specific discipline. The process lasted two days, then research was gathered to support the recommendations, and were evaluated further for six months, Bellows says.

Dr. John Albers, executive director of AAHA, did not respond to interview requests from DVM Newsmagazine.