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Dental care from top to bottom
Everything you ever wanted to know about building a successful dental program but were afraid to ask.

DVM Best Practices

A digital camera lets you document any notable lesions or abnormalities and share before-and-after pictures with your clients—they love to see the dramatic improvement in their pet's smile and may want copies. I also recommend providing digital copies of the pet's dental radiographs. Simply photograph the radiographs with a digital camera, edit the images in a software program, and print the pictures. This value-added service will reinforce your diagnosis and treatment and help build word-of-mouth recommendations.

Anesthesia and monitoring equipment Perhaps clients' biggest concern about dental care is anesthesia. It seems as if everyone has a horror story. While it's true that any anesthetic procedure includes serious risk, you can help allay those fears by reviewing your monitoring equipment and dental protocols with each client to reassure them about the safeguards you take.

Tips for raising dental awareness
To start, critically review your dental anesthetic protocol. With injectable anesthetics, such as propofol, and inhalant agents, such as isoflurane and sevoflurane, you can tailor the safest anesthetic protocol based on the patient's needs. You'll look closely at the pet's temperament, physical condition, preexisting medical conditions, and past anesthetic experiences.

In my practice, we require preanesthetic blood tests for all patients before they undergo dental scaling and polishing, and we provide intravenous catheterization and fluid support throughout the procedure. Ideally, you'll monitor the pet's condition with pulse oximetry, a heart and respiratory rate monitor, electrocardiography, and body temperature measurements. End-tidal CO2 monitoring or a rectal probe for pulse oximetry is also beneficial in dental patients because it can be challenging to obtain consistent pulse oximeter readings using lingual probes during oral procedures.

The people and the process Even with all of the latest technology, some clients won't be convinced to schedule dental prophylaxis for their pets.This part is up to you and your staff members. Start by developing a uniform message for enthusiastic staff members. Ask yourself why dentistry is important for patients. Research in both people and pets proves that good oral care extends life expectancy, prevents secondary diseases, and improves quality of life.

For example, a University of Minnesota School of Public Health study found that tooth loss caused by gum disease may be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease.1 Studies by the American Heart Association ( and the American Academy of Periodontology ( have also found this. More important, ask yourself how you feel about dental care. If you're not fully committed to the program, you can't expect it to succeed.

Your team members must be on board with the program also. So train your staff members, make sure they're providing home dental care for their pets, and then allow them to educate your clients. A message from the heart and borne of experience will resonate more deeply with clients, and they will be more likely to comply with your recommendations. Once you're convinced that dentistry is right for you and your team, it's time to get to work.

The first step is to educate yourself. Review the current scientific literature about basic veterinary dentistry,2,3 and identify the areas you want to pursue. Start with the simple procedures and work your way up. Consider taking advantage of some of the outstanding continuing education opportunities offered for veterinary dentistry. For example, the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry Web site ( offers great resources for continuing education.


Source: DVM Best Practices,
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