Veterinary dentistry is the field of dentistry applied to the care of animals. It is the art and science of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions, diseases, and disorders of the oral cavity, the maxillo-facial region, and its associated structures as it relates to animals.
In the United States, veterinary dentistry is one of 20 veterinary specialties recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Veterinary dentists offer services in the fields of endodontics, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral medicine, orthodontics, pedodontics, periodontics, and prosthodontics. Similar to human dentists, they treat conditions such as jaw fractures, malocclusions, oral cancer, periodontal disease, and stomatitis and other conditions unique to veterinary medicine (e.g. feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions).
Some animals have specialist dental workers, such as equine dental technicians who conduct routine work on horses.
Most pet owners are not aware that their pet has an oral problem so an examination of the Oral Cavity Overview should form part of every physical examination. Oral examination in a conscious animal can only give limited information and a definitive oral examination can only be performed under general anaesthesia.
It is important to examine the whole animal, even when the primary complaint is the mouth. Some dental diseases may be the result of a systemic problem and some may result in systemic complications. In all cases, dental procedures require a general anaesthetic so it is important to establish the cardiovascular and respiratory status and canine and feline physiological values of the patient to avoid risks or complications.
Pain originating from dental problems is very rarely recognized by owners or professionals. Seldom will an animal become anorexic due to a dental problem. The exception to this is in the case of severe soft tissue injury, for example chronic gingivostomatitis. In general dental pain is a chronic pain, and it is only after treatment that an owner reports how much better their pet is doing. Pain is often mistaken for a pet just getting old. Very few clients examine their pets’ teeth unless they are carrying out daily home care, so actual dental problems often go unnoticed.
It is important to recognize symptoms that may have a link to dental diseases such as a nasal discharge or external facial swellings. In some cases, dental patients may even present with what appear to be neurological symptoms.
The main signs of oral disease include :
- Broken or discoloured teeth
- Changes in eating behaviour
- Rubbing or pawing at the face
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Inability or unwillingness to open or close the mouth
- Change in temperament
- Weight loss
- Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Dentistry
- American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians
- American Veterinary Dental College
- American Veterinary Dental Society
- British Veterinary Dental Association
- European Veterinary Dental College
- European Veterinary Dental Society
- Veterinary Oral Health Council
- WikiVet Dentistry