Dental corner: Helping an apprehender prehend


A veterinary team works together to help a police dog with two fractured maxillary canine teeth.

A 4-year-old male German shepherd, Sarge, was presented at the University of Pennsylvania's Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service for evaluation of two fractured maxillary canine teeth. He is a working police dog, or apprehender, and was doing bite-work training when he fractured the teeth. To keep working, he needed root canals on both canines, which had sustained complicated crown fractures. The right canine tooth was fractured worse than the left, but both were deemed good candidates for root canal therapy, followed by full crown placement.

A dental technician admits a patient, performs preoperative lab work, and obtains temperature, pulse, and respiration.

Sarge was anesthetized and full-mouth intraoral radiographs were taken, followed by a thorough examination and ultrasonic scaling and polishing. Upon evaluation, it was discovered that Sarge's mandibular canine teeth were being worn down on the distal aspects by an outside source, most likely the cage in the police car. To prevent fracturing of his mandibular canine teeth, three-fourths, or partial, crowns were recommended. So this very valuable police dog was admitted for endodontics and prosthodontics on all four canine teeth.

Technicians take pictures of the affected teeth, followed by a thorough intraoral exam and full-mouth radiographs.

Root canals and dental impressions

First root canals were performed on Sarge's maxillary canines. Then dental impressions were taken of all the canine teeth and sent to a dental lab that creates the crowns. Temporary crowns were fashioned and placed on the teeth until the permanent crowns were ready. Sarge was recovered with the handler present and was sent home with instructions of no bite training, hard foods, or treats until the manufactured crowns were placed on his teeth.

Technicians assist with the root canal, from getting the files ready, to keeping track of different files, to getting the filling and restorative materials ready, to obtaining radiographs to track the process.

Crown placement

One week later, Sarge and his handler returned. He was anesthetized for crown placement. One of the temporary crowns had fallen off, and the other was removed. The metal crowns were checked for good placement on the prepped teeth. The teeth were then acid etched, rinsed, and dried, and cement was placed on the crown surface, as well as within the permanent metal crowns. Then the crowns were placed on the teeth, any excess cement was wiped away, and postoperative pictures and radiographs were taken. Sarge recovered and was sent home with instructions to resume bite work and hard kibble and undergo daily brushing.

A dental technician may also be responsible for assisting with crown placement, cementing the crowns, and offering follow-up and homecare instructions.

Patricia March, RVT, VTS (Dentistry) is a dental technician at Animal Dental Center in Baltimore, Md., and the past president of the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians.

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