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The decade of dentistry: moving veterinary dentistry forward
What the future may hold for the expanding field of veterinary dentistry
Content submitted by Thrive Pet Healthcare, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner
As dentistry continues to become a larger part of primary care veterinary practice,many teams are focusing or re-focusing on dentistry as a key area of expansion within their practice. This requires a concentration on post-graduate and continuing education training in dentistry not only for the practicing veterinarian, but also for the veterinary technical staff and hospital team. Fortunately, there are multiple educational opportunities in dentistry including online courses and hands-on training. Dentistry courses are included in the curriculum at most continuing education (CE) meetings, and full-time, dental training centers have become more common making it easier to find and complete dental-focused training.
Some of the larger hospital groups have organized internal training programs within their family of hospitals to focus on improving the quality of dentistry care. These comprehensive learning programs range from simple online CE courses to virtual trainings with hands-on didactic instruction. Thrive Pet Healthcare has developed this type of learning platform with its Dental Growth Program that pairs a virtual learning curriculum with hands-on didactic laboratory sessions to teach clinical skills in areas such as dental radiology and dental extractions. The Thrive program has courses for doctors and technicians that are aimed at raising the standard of care and ultimately improving the quality of dental care that patients receive.
Improving the quality of care within any veterinary hospital begins with educating the doctors as well as the technical team to ensure they are comfortable in making the proper oral and dental diagnoses. Once they are confident in properly diagnosing and effectively treating common dental conditions, it’s easier for them to deliver optimal treatment and excellent client service. The availability of quality continuing education continues to expand. Simply typing “veterinary dental training” into your favorite search engine yields multiple online and in-person learning options.
Even veterinary schools are jumping on the dentistry bandwagon. The dentistry curriculum historically taught in veterinary schools has been woefully inadequate. The recent American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education requirement to include dentistry as part of the veterinary school training/curriculum is a step towards improving the education of veterinary students. Unfortunately, improving the quality and quantity of dentistry education at the vet school level will not happen overnight. It’s going to take significant time, effort, and funding at the university level to effectively improve dental instruction to ensure futureveterinarians can be dental care providers after graduation.
The availability of advanced dental and oral surgical care isexpanding with the increasing number of Board Certified veterinary dental specialists working in clinical practice. Dentistry as a specialty within veterinary medicine has come a long way since it was initially proposed as a specialty in the late 1980’s. The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) recognizes an individual that has completed residency training and passed a certification examination in dentistry as a Board Certified Veterinary Dentist™. The AVDC recently trademarked the term toidentify those individuals who are board certified specialists in dentistry. Today there are over 200 Board Certified Veterinary Dentists™ in North America. The majority are dental specialists in clinical, small animal practice and located primarily in larger cities and major population centers. Access to advanced dental and oral surgical care delivered by board-certified experts is gradually expanding.
As dental specialty practice continues to evolve, board-certified veterinary dentists now offer many of the same cutting-edge treatments seen today in human dental offices. Veterinary dental specialists are using a variety of new treatments and specialized instruments such as advanced 3-D imaging in the form of cone beam CT, Pieziotomes for advanced oral surgical applications and CAD/CAM technology for more rapid and precise dental restorations.
With dentistry expanding to play a more major role within our profession, we are seeing sub-specialtiesdevelop within veterinary dentistry. The first of these was board certification in equine dentistry and more recently the AVDC announced an advanced training program in oral and maxillofacial surgery. This post board certification fellowship offers specific training to develop expertise in the surgical treatment of oral and maxillofacial conditions in dogs and cats. We can expect to see more individuals designated as Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Fellows that devote a major portion of their professional activities to the diagnosis and management of patients with oral and maxillofacial conditions.
The bigger emphasis on dentistry has resulted in veterinary hospitals that provide focused care in dentistry. These dentistry only hospitals offer general dental treatment including professional teeth cleaning, dental X-rays and extractions for dogs and cats. They do not provide general wellness services or treat other non-dental conditions. Their general practice, licensed veterinarians and technicians have a primary interest in veterinary dentistry and prefer to limit their practice to general dentistry for dogs and cats.
This continued advancement also has primary care veterinarians now commonly using the care and treatments that a few years ago seemed reserved for board-certified dental specialists. Treatments such as intraoral digital, dental X-rays, local and regional dental nerve blocks, and major/surgical extractions within primary care, small animal practice have become the standard of care. With veterinary dentistry continuing to evolve and more primary care veterinarians and technical team members improving their dental knowledge and focusing on the practice of dentistry, the overall quality of dental care across the profession is increasing. That’s good news for our patients and their pet parents!
We can expect pet parents who are used to targeted care from their physicians to seek similar care for their pets. This evolution has become evident in other areas of veterinary medicine such as urgent care hospitals, which offer fast and immediate treatment to patients with a wide range of conditions, illnesses and injuries that do not warrant an emergency room visit. Thrive Pet Healthcare continues to lead the way in providing first-in-class training for their doctors and technical teams, as well as personalized care to clients and their pets.
Will the 2020s be the “Decade of Dentistry?” Only time will tell, but we are off to a promising start.