How This Vet Ended Up Becoming a Dentist

Dentistry Gains Momentum

But over the course of my career, I’d seen the writing on the wall: Veterinary dentistry was growing up. Veterinarians began to recognize that proper dental care could prevent pain and help protect pets from the spread of infection to internal organs, including the heart, kidneys and liver. No longer was it good enough for just anyone to “pull” teeth when proper extraction techniques were required.

Sure, technicians were a wonderful adjunct to the team, especially when certified or well-trained via formal coursework in veterinary dental techniques, but things had changed: Digital X-rays were de rigueur, and veterinarians — not technicians — would perform all delicate dental procedures. I mean, you wouldn’t expect your hygienist to supplant your dentist in a surgical situation, would you?

Which explains why most of us not-so-clinically-schooled veterinarians eventually undertook seminars on current techniques in veterinary dentistry and clocked hours in wet labs on radiology, dental pathology, surgical extraction techniques and endodontics, among other areas of dental interest (root canal, anyone?).

The Force Behind the Change

But the question remains ofwhy things changed. How did we get from overseeing our technicians while we performed ostensibly more “complex” medicine to dedicating a full 15 percent of our workdays to dentistry?

Turns out much of it was your fault. Sure, veterinarians campaigned for dental X-rays and thorough cleanings beneath the gumline. But it was you, our progressive pet owners, who clamored for higher standards of care and wouldn’t stand for anything less. You were the ones who didn’t think it was good enough to extract a tooth when we could save it. You wanted root canals and advanced periodontal procedures.

Now, it’s true that not everyone can afford the high level of care most of us now provide. But here’s the thing: At least you know what’s on the menu. And that means that maybe one day (pet insurance in hand, perhaps?) you will start to think of your veterinarian as a dentist, too.

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