As many of you are aware, February is national pet dental health month. In the past few years, many of us have ratcheted up
our dental care skills, yet I often feel we still don't always do all the dental procedures our patients need.
Dr. Philip VanVranken looks on as Peggy Heersema, lvt, performs a dental prophylaxis on a patient.
See if this sounds familiar: One morning you enter the exam room to see Bandit, a 15-year-old poodle, for his annual examination.
Your olfactory senses tell you that either Bandit or his owner is in need of urgent dental care. A quick examination shows
you that although rotten is not a professional term, it probably most aptly describes Bandit's mouth. A review of Bandit's records shows that the
owner has repeatedly refused dental care because of anesthetic concerns. I recently asked our technicians exactly how many
anesthetic deaths during dental procedures had occurred in the last 10 years. The response was unanimous: occasionally some
exciting times, but not one death. Imagine going to your own dentist and finding out that, at the age of 68, your dentist
thought you were too old for nitrous oxide and Novocain to repair that gigantic slab fracture in your premolar.
I think all of us (ourselves and our patients) should be allowed to expire from natural causes with pain-free oral cavities. The bottom line is this: Appropriate dental care for our patients, regardless of their age, does as much as
anything to enrich their lives.
As a profession, we are very aware of pain and the need to control it, especially with conditions of an arthritic or surgical
nature. However, we sometimes overlook one of the most painful conditions—dental disease. So, for the rest of 2005, let us
act as our patients' advocates for great dental care.
Philip VanVranken, DVM, is a Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board Member from Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic in Battle Creek, Mich.