Are you into Dentistry?

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Three root canal files
used to remove infected

"My last veterinarian didn't believe in dentistry." Believe in dentistry? It's not a matter of belief; it's a fact that veterinary dental care provides significant benefits for our companion animal patients. Sounds odd that some practitioners just aren't into dentistry for their patients. They may clean and polish teeth periodically, but pay little or no attention to individual tooth problems. Why are there believers and non-believers when it comes to dentistry? Why are some practitioners into it and others not?

Two years ago I was barely computer literate. We had our office computerized, but I knew little about personal computers. The words DOS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, and CONFIG.SYS were part of a foreign language as far as I was concerned. In order to be more efficient I needed to learn. My education came though an evening computer course on Windows™ and word processing. I then purchased a laptop and was on my way.

Animal dentistry in many ways is similar. Due to the void in most veterinary schools, endodontics, periodontics, orthodontics, and intraoral radiology are to most practitioners, foreign concepts. Dentistry is scary to some, since many fear what they do not understand. So what do you need? Desire, education (the software), and the proper equipment (the hardware).

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Certified veterinary
technician examining
periodontal pocket depths

Education is available for the asking. Tackling dentistry as one large subject may be overwhelming. Split it up into bite sized pieces (endodontics, periodontics, orthodontics, oral medicine, oral surgery, radiology and crowns) in order to make the education process less intimidating. There are texts, videos, and interactive computer programs available. The American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians (800-613-3647) is dedicated to teaching veterinary technicians how to recognize pathology and how to perform a complete prophy. They certify veterinary dental technicians after passing a 700 question open book test. Our office offers hands on Sunday wet labs on intraoral radiology, endodontics and extraction techniques (for the next one scheduled, call 954-432-1111). During the education  process, questions often arise. Feel free to call on us for answers.

Highspeed delivery

Equipment is also easy to obtain. The essentials include high, low speed drills, and an air/water syringe. Such equipment does not need to be expensive. Getting into dentistry can cost as little as $1500.00 or as much  as $10,000 for all the bells and whistles. The return on your investment will be virtually immediate with increased patient service. Not having the proper equipment does however creates a dilemma. When presented with cat suffering from a feline erosive oral lesion, you need high speed drill capability to properly care for your patient. Equipment can usually be purchased on time payments which help.

Desire is the key to unlock the mysteries of dentistry. Better patient care should be reason enough for any practitioner to want to improve dental skills. Our client's pets do not need to loose their teeth at six years of age because dentistry may have not been emphasized when younger. With a enough desire to learn and equip yourself, dentistry becomes fun and relatively easy.

Once again, making the analogy between computers and dentistry, my latest adventure occured surfing on the Internet. Just as in dentistry, it is a scary, uncharted territory for many. I avoided the World Wide Web. I was not into the Net. Then two months ago my desire peaked -- it was time to dive in. With a little education (thanks to my wife, Allie) and some new software, I am an active participant. As with dentistry there is a wonderment of new and fun things to persue.

Getting into dentistry is a challenge. For most practitioners dentistry means simply cleaning teeth. It can be much more. Start by evaluating each tooth as an individual unit. If what you see doesn't appear normal ask yourself what would it take to fix. Present your findings and suggestions to the pet's owner. Once the client recognizes your dental expertise they will be appreciative that you care so for their pet's total health care.

Education, equipment, and desire are the keys -- now its up to you.


This page last updated on October 31, 2000
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Jan Bellows, DVM
All Pets Dental Clinic
17100 Royal Palm Blvd.
Weston, FL 33326
(954) 349-5800