AAHA releases new dental care guidelines

March 18, 2019
Maureen McKinney, Associate Editorial Director

dvm360, dvm360 April 2020, Volume 51, Issue 4

With a focus on the fundamental role of client education and effective preventive care, AAHA hopes to help veterinary professionals keep their patients healthy.

Many pet owners are unaware that by age 3 most dogs and cats suffer from periodontal disease-and the pain and inflammation that go along with it. In fact, many veterinary professionals don't appreciate the extent of the damage that periodontal disease can cause to the health and quality of life of their patients.

Enter the 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, the latest oral healthcare recommendations from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Created after a yearlong collaboration among veterinary dentists, anesthesiologists, board-certified veterinary dental technicians and practice managers, the guidelines are intended to help veterinary professionals identify and treat oral pathology in their patients and to build on their current client education efforts regarding dental disease prevention, according to a release from AAHA.

The evidence-based, peer-reviewed guidelines, last released in 2013, include an illustrated protocol describing the essential steps in a comprehensive oral health assessment, dental cleaning and periodontal therapy as well as recommendations for general anesthesia, pain management, and facilities and equipment needed to provide safe and effective dental care.

“The 2019 guidelines are not an update of the 2013 version,” Jan Bellows, DVM, DACVD, DABVP (Canine/Feline), owner of All Pets Dental in Weston, Florida, and guidelines task force member, told dvm360. “It is a complete rewrite with emphasis on making it immediately useful for the general practitioner.”

Several areas of new information are included for exactly that purpose:

  • An expanded and illustrated discussion of common veterinary dental procedures
  • Criteria for periodontal disease staging
  • How and why to address pain and stress in dental patients
  • Client communication tips for explaining the importance and rationale behind specific dental and oral procedures, as well as the importance of home care.

“The guidelines also help the veterinary healthcare team effectively address the fear of anesthesia-the most commonly cited reason pet owners forego proper dental procedures-and convey the risks associated with nonanesthetic dentistry to clients,” AAHA states in the release.

“AAHA continues to support the use of general anesthesia in dental procedures to promote appropriate diagnostic capabilities and decrease patient stress, injury and risk of aspiration,” says AAHA CEO Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (emeritus), in the release. “Because home care is crucial in the support of a healthy, pain-free mouth, client communication and education remain central to these guidelines.”

Creation of the 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats was supported by educational grants from Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA, Hill's Pet Nutrition and Midmark. 

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