Dental Corner: Properly equip your dental suite

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Jul 01, 2007

You have made a commitment to yourself and your patients to upgrade your dental services. After all, periodontal disease is the most common disease in dogs.1,2 The key to providing high-quality oral care is having the knowledge and skills to recommend and deliver appropriate treatment, but without the proper equipment, your ability to perform basic dental procedures, such as periodontal prophylaxis and dental extraction, is compromised.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recently established dentistry guidelines for accredited hospitals.3 The guidelines state that all hospitals should have equipment to expose and develop intraoral dental radiographs, a high and low-speed air and water delivery system as well as handpieces, dental burs, and a powered scaler. Dental instruments considered necessary by the AAHA guidelines include hand scalers and curettes, a periodontal probe and explorer, and the various instruments needed for dental extractions. In addition, the guidelines state that the instruments should be sterilized between uses and that patients undergoing dental cleanings or extractions should receive inhalation anesthesia with a cuffed endotracheal tube.3


Table 1: A Dental Equipment Checklist
Properly equipping your practice for dentistry is now the accepted standard of care. In this article, we list the equipment you need to perform periodontal prophylaxis and dental extraction (Table 1). This list is not intended to recommend or endorse any particular brand or manufacturer—for specific recommendations, contact your colleagues who have already purchased equipment, or contact a diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College.

EQUIPMENT FOR GENERAL PERIODONTAL PROPHYLAXIS

These basic instruments are vital to a properly performed periodontal prophylaxis, keeping dental problems at bay.

Periodontal probe and dental explorer


Figure 1. This Marquis color-coded periodontal probe (right), marked in 3-mm increments, is used to measure periodontal attachment loss. The shepherd's hook explorer at the opposite end (left) is used for discovering tooth defects such as cavities and fractures.
When equipping your dental operatory, the instrument to put at the top of your list is a periodontal probe. Not only is it likely to be the least expensive dental instrument, but it's also the most sensitive clinical tool for detecting periodontal attachment loss.4 The periodontal probe is a blunt-tipped instrument with graduated markings (different probes have different graduations). This probe measures the extent of periodontal attachment loss (Figure 1). It is gently inserted between the free gingiva and tooth to measure pocket depth and gingival recession. Many probes also have a dental explorer at the opposite end of the handle. This sharp, curved instrument, which looks like a shepherd's hook, is valuable in detecting irregularities in teeth such as fractures, caries, and feline resorptive lesions. It can also be used to detect tooth mobility that may be a sign of periodontal disease, tooth root fracture, or neoplasia.