The Failure of the Veterinary Profession to Provide the Dental Care Needed by Companion Animals
An Editorial by: Wayne R. Hause, DVM, DACVIM I am not on the front lines of small animal practice like my colleagues in general practice so; you might criticize me for writing about this subject. However, dental health is such an integral part of overall health that I feel some words are warranted. Having practiced with a board certified dentist for these last many years, I have learned that there is a large interaction between dentistry and IM and that there is a critical relationship between good oral health and overall health. Pets are referred to me for a wide variety of problems. One of the common denominators is that they have particularly devoted owners who know that my services are going to be expensive because they have been selected by their family veterinarians. I find a fairly large number of these pets who are in need of dental care. This is not the reason they have been referred, it is just an incidental finding. I discuss with the owners that the pet needs dental care as well as a plan for dealing with the problem for which they were referred. A fairly standard set of excuses spews forth from the clients why this hasn’t been done. I think my pet is too old for this to be done or my veterinarian told me my pet is too old. I am worried about the anesthesia necessary for dental care. My pet has a heart murmur. Or: and this is the worst “my veterinarian did not recommend it”. First of all there is not an age limit to good dental care! How many of you are going to stop going to the dentist as you age? The risk of anesthesia as long as it is done correctly is minimal compared to the risk of leaving bad teeth. Heart murmurs and many underlying conditions are not barriers to good dental care. They may modify the protocol but they do not preclude dental procedures. A thorough dental evaluation is part of the physical exam process. If the pet needs dental care provide it to them or refer them to a board certified dentist. I find it very embarrassing to have to explain to these obviously devoted clients that their pets dental health has been neglected! In this time of a bad economy and vaccine protocols changing, now is a great time to provide the preventive dental health that our pets should enjoy. Everybody wins when you provide this service.