Summary

Not only is oral health a fundamental aspect of overall pet health and wellbeing, but veterinary dentistry is now considered a standard component of companion animal medicine. Any full-service, primary care companion animal practice should have the capability to perform basic canine and feline dental examinations and procedures, including those performed under general anesthesia. This capability assumes that the veterinarian and other clinical staff have the expertise and essential resources necessary to perform veterinary dentistry. These include facilities, materials, and equipment, including barrier protection, specific for veterinary dentistry. It is important that the practice team routinely apply the nomenclature and terminology specifically associated with veterinary dentistry. This is done not only to ensure precision in performing dental procedures but also to educate clients about the unique aspects of oral healthcare.

Lifetime oral health assumes that individualized periodontal disease prevention and treatment plans will be implemented. Avoiding and managing the inflammation, pain, and potential for systemic infection associated with periodontal disease are strong contributors to the pet’s quality of life and longevity.

Evaluation and documentation of dentition and oral pathology involves oral evaluation of both the conscious and anesthetized patient. Initial evaluation of the conscious patient can be facilitated by pharmacologic protocols to reduce the patient’s stress and anxiety. A comprehensive oral health assessment involving radiography requires general anesthesia. It is important to recognize that many grossly normal teeth in dogs and cats have clinically important pathology or abnormalities that can be detected only by intraoral radiography performed under general anesthesia. Because dental procedures can be painful, intra- and postoperative pain management, often using multimodal protocols, is an essential component of veterinary dentistry.

The guidelines describe a step-by-step process for the procedures that are typically performed for canine and feline dental patients. These include oral examination, radiography, tooth scaling, periodontal disease staging, plaque and calculus removal and mitigation, general anesthesia, and instructing pet owners on home oral hygiene. Although some of these procedures are often performed in a referral setting, they are all within the capabilities of properly trained and equipped primary care practices.

Oral healthcare is a necessary aspect of lifetime pet wellness.However, because veterinary dentistry involves general anesthesia, many clients are hesitant to consider dental procedures for their pet. For this reason, client education plays a pivotal role in successfully integrating veterinary dentistry into your practice’s service offerings and incorporating dental care into a lifetime healthcare plan for canine and feline patients.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Mark Dana of the Kanara Consulting Group, LLC in the preparation of the guidelines manuscript, Jan Bellows for the photographic images, and Tamara Rees of VIN for the illustrations.