New mandate for animal dentistry

New rules are set to take effect that will change the way animals are treated during dental procedures.Recently, the American Animal Hospital Association announced a rule mandating that all AAHA-accredited veterinary hospitals and those seeking accreditation from the organization anesthetize and intubate all dental patients.1 The announcement builds on the AAHA’s recommendations contained in its 2013 Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, which came out earlier in the year.2

The rule is set to go into effect on Nov. 1, 2013, and could have significant ripple effects on dental treatment, veterinary technology and veterinary technician certification methods, with hospitals across the country attempting to assimilate the new standards.

Reasons for the mandate

The new rule will apply to all dental procedures, including cleanings, to the benefit of both the companion animals and the veterinarians and their assistants who work with them.

The benefits of the anesthesia and intubation are manifold. Aside from reducing pain, they allow deeper probing under the gum line, keep animals immobilized so that intraoral dental films can be taken more easily and protect the trachea from aspiration of water and oral debris.

“At AAHA, we hold our accredited practices to the highest standard of veterinary excellence. We firmly believe that accredited practices should be practicing the best veterinary medicine,” said Kate Knutson, DVM, 2013-2014 AAHA president. “The Guidelines state that cleaning a companion animal’s teeth without general anesthesia and intubation is unacceptable and below the standard of care.”

Impact on students and veterinary technicians

Current students, or those who are interested in entering a veterinary technician program, should be aware of any major changes to standards of care, as they will have a direct impact on your education and then your practice once you graduate.

While this latest mandate codifies standards that have been in practice for years,3 it is still an important development and speaks to changing attitudes about animal care. It could also have a direct impact on teaching techniques, with anesthesia and intubation for dental procedures taking on more significance during training.

Medical practice standards of all kinds, whether for humans or animals, change constantly as new knowledge and understanding come to the fore. Keeping a tab on the latest developments is always an important way to stay ahead of the curve as you pursue a veterinary technician degree.

1 NEWStat, “AAHA announces new mandatory dental standard requiring anesthesia, intubation,” Aug. 28, 2013. http://www.aahanet.org/blog/NewStat/post/2013/08/28/473868/AAHA-announces-new-mandatory-dental-standard-requiring-anesthesia-intubation.aspx
2 AAHA, “2013 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats,” Mar/Apr 2013. https://www.aahanet.org/Library/DentalCare.aspx
3 Crosby, Janet Tobiassen, DVM, “Is anesthesia necessary to do a dental cleaning on my pet?” http://vetmedicine.about.com/od/caninehealthdogs/f/FAQ_dentalanes.htm