If you want to drive a veterinary dentist nuts, use the terms "dental, dentistry or prophy" in a sentence describing the
oral hygiene and teeth cleaning visit.
Why get so bent out of shape over a word or two?
The big deal is two-fold. First, the choice of words is incorrect, and second, the process that is performed needs to include
more than removing calculus from the crowns of teeth.
Referring to the procedure as a dental or dentistry is painting a broad brush of all possible dental diagnostics and care
over patients that have different oral problems.
If a dog or cat is presented for an ovariohysterectomy, it is expected that the patient will be anesthetized, an incision
will be made, the ovaries and uterus removed and the incision sutured. In most cases, an ovariohysterectomy is an ovariohysterectomy.
It's not the case with dental care. Virtually all cases are different even though the mouths smell similar. Some teeth are
in Stage 1 periodontal disease and others have Stage 4. Some patients only need minimal oral hygiene care while most require
oral surgery. Referring to what we do as a dental is similar to telling a client we need to do a cardiac on a dog who presents
for respiratory difficulty, arrhythmia and Grade 3-5 heart murmur.
To call the procedure a prophy or prophylaxis opens up the next can of worms. Prophylaxis is a term used in human dentistry
to describe the procedure performed by a dental hygienist usually in response to a postcard requesting your visitation to
the dentist. There are a number of existing definitions for "oral prophylaxis" by the American Dental Association.
A common element in these definitions is the removal of deposits from the tooth surfaces. Most of these definitions only address
supragingival deposit removal from coronal tooth surfaces and the clinical crowns of the teeth. The American Academy of Periodontology
presents the most comprehensive definition of the oral prophylaxis as the "removal of plaque, calculus and stain from exposed
and unexposed surfaces of the teeth by scaling and polishing as a preventive measure for the control of local irritational
Current definitions indicate that the oral prophylaxis is performed on patients/clients with normal, healthy mouths to maintain
health and prevent the initiation of dental disease. When periodontal disease is present, removal of deposits on the teeth
is no longer a preventive service. In the presence of periodontal disease, periodontal debridement (therapeutic scaling and/or root planing, also known
as non-surgical periodontal therapy) is indicated.
The American Dental Association's (ADA) Current Dental Terminology, second edition (CDT-2) states that the adult prophylaxis
is "performed on transitional or permanent dentition, which includes scaling and polishing procedures to remove coronal plaque,
calculus and stains." It is intended for use on the patient/client without periodontal disease. Again, this is not what we
do. Our clients schedule the oral hygiene care appointment once their pet has halitosis secondary to periodontal disease.
What should happen during the procedure, and what can we properly call the oral hygiene visit?
Three important actions
The procedure should be treated as three separate interrelated actions: Oral assessment, treatment and prevention (Oral ATP).
Assessment is the systematic collection and analysis of data in order to identify patient needs. Tooth-by-tooth evaluation
of probing depths, mobility, furcation exposure, fractures, missing teeth, extra teeth, odontoclastic resorptive lesions,
among other lesions, should be noted on the dental chart. Assessment is the first step needed to make a diagnosis and formulate
a treatment plan.
Treatment: With 42 teeth in the dog and 30 in the cat each with different degrees of pathology, spending time to plan therapy makes
sense. Some teeth need extraction due to support loss as a result of Stage 4 periodontal disease. Teeth affected with Stage
2 periodontal disease (<25 percent support loss) can benefit from locally applied antimicrobial (LAA). In some cases there
is little pathology noted other than minimal plaque and calculus which are removed. Fractured teeth with pulp exposure are
either preserved via root-canal therapy or extracted.