Dental care is necessary to provide optimal health and quality of life. Diseases of the oral cavity, if left untreated, are often painful and can contribute to other local or systemic diseases. The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines for the practice of companion animal dentistry. A list of definitions to enhance the understanding of this article is provided in Table 1.

The veterinarian is obligated to practice within the scope of his or her education, training, and experience. It is imperative that the dental care team remains current with regard to oral care, operative procedures, materials, equipment and products. The team members must attain appropriate continuing education through courses such as those offered by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the annual Veterinary Dental Forum, as well as by reading appropriate journals (e.g., the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry) and books.1-5

"Dentistry" is practiced in all small animal clinics and hospitals. As with other disciplines, there are many ways to perform dental evaluation and care. The Smile Book V is intended to help small animal practitioners understand and implement the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.


Dr. Jan Bellows, Hometown Animal Hospital, Weston, Florida

How were the guidelines created?

In 2004, the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines Task Force was assembled. Task force members included board-certified veterinary dental specialists, a general practitioner and a veterinary technician. Their goal was to create a useful document about dental care for veterinary practice teams. The guidelines were approved by the AAHA Board of Directors.

What prompted the need for these guidelines?

These guidelines help practitioners define for their clients what constitutes good dental care and why it is important for their pet's health. Independent guidelines from a third party like AAHA can make a big difference in pet owners' acceptance of dental care recommendations.

What issues do the guidelines address?

The guidelines cover several different areas:

 Definitions that pertain to dental guidelines

 Instruments to include in the dental surgical pack and importance of sterility

 Minimum protective devices to be used during dental procedures

 Recommendations for patient assessment by life stage

 Materials needed for the practice of dentistry

 Equipment for performing dental procedures

 Items to include in patient dental chart and/or medical record

 Pre-anesthesia exams and anesthesia recommendations

 Client education and home-care considerations

 Essential steps for dental cleaning, treatment of periodontal disease and other conditions

What is the purpose of the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats?

The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines for the practice of companion animal dentistry. The AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats provide a resource to help veterinary practice teams provide optimal dental care.

How will practices benefit from implementing these guidelines?

When these guidelines are implemented, patients will receive an improved level of care, benefiting both pets and their owners. Additionally, the guidelines can increase pride among practice staff members, who in turn are proud to be affiliated with a practice that offers the best for its pets.

Is the information provided in the guidelines "new"?

The guidelines pull together an already-existing body of knowledge encompassing evidence-based support, practical clinical experience, and a consensus of expert opinion.

The AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats is available from the following sources:

 Online at the AAHA website at:

 September/October 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association:

 September/October 2005 issue of Trends magazine

Are AAHA members required to implement the guidelines?

These guidelines were developed as an educational tool to enhance the well-being of dogs and cats. The document in which the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats was published is intended as a guideline only.

Table of Contents
The Smile Book V
The Oral Assessment, Treatment and Prevention Visit
Jan Bellows, D.V.M. Diplomate, American Veterinary Dental College
Getting Ready
Oral Assessment, Treatment and Prevention

Check out the entire
Smile Book Series


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Jan Bellows, DVM
All Pets Dental Clinic
17100 Arvida Parkway
Weston, FL 33326
(954) 349-5800