Pet Plus Story 2 - Animal Dentistry

After a few months working and playing in Kenya (to recover from the university course), I started my first job.

It was in an incredibly busy mixed veterinary practice, seeing all species, from dogs and cats to sheep and cows, at all hours of the day and night. It was a fabulous job! No two days were the same. I loved it! After a few years, I found I was doing more and more of the small animal work and less of the farm work.

One day, a blind man came into the consulting room with his gorgeous Labrador guide dog. She had broken one of her upper canine teeth and was too distracted by it to work reliably, a dangerous situation for both of them.

She was quite young and it occurred to me that there might be something we could do other than extract it (an awful job for both the dog and the vet!). I went across the road to the dentist opposite and he kindly came and had a look.

The dentist said he could perform a root canal operation on a Labrador.

'I can do a root canal on that' he said, so the next day, we anaesthetized the Labrador and he did the root canal treatment.

The dog was able to work effectively with her blind owner the next day! If we'd removed the tooth, she would have been in pain for some time afterwards because the root of a dog's canine tooth is about twice as big as the crown, so you inevitably do some damage when removing it.

That Started My Career In Veterinary Dentistry

From that day on, I studied veterinary dentistry and ended up in Denver, Colorado, USA, studying with the Father of Veterinary Dentistry, Dr Peter Emily.

He offered to teach a course on Veterinary Dentistry in the UK if I organized it, so when I returned to the UK, I did just that. We ran many more courses in the UK, teaching vets how to do better dentistry on their patients. We then decided to write an illustrated book describing each technique in intricate detail. The Handbook of Small Animal Dentistry was a great success (now out of print, but you can see the book on Amazon anyway).

Next, I set up the British Veterinary Dental Association and started my Veterinary Dental Referral Service, which I ran here in Wales until I retired from veterinary practice in 2016.

People came from all over the country with their pets' dental problems. Fortunately, numerous vets have now specialized in Veterinary Dentistry, so there are several referral centres dotted about the country.

Read About Dr. Susanna's Journey

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3 comments on “Pet Plus Story 2 - Animal Dentistry”

  1. Hello Susanna!

    I am wondering if you could help me. I have a 6 year old unspayed (not a breeder) female Jack Chi.
    She broke a tooth 2 days ago whilst chewing a Nylabone, we have never had any problems before, she has had various different nylabones since being a pup. The tooth she has broken seems to be a pre molar or molar, It is near the back. When we looked at her other teeth we discovered the one directly opposite is also broken, but does have some plaque on it.. which seems to be an older injury. The broken teeth are both upper teeth.

    We took her to see a vet yesterday and was told the the pulp is exposed. The vet said we should leave her for a few days to see how the tooth settles down, but she would like to avoid surgery of any kind. When we got home from the vets I done a few google searches, only to find that she may get an infection in the tooth and that it may be causing her a lot of pain, This has left me unsatisfied with what the vet has said to me.

    She is still very playful (although, I have taken the nylabones away) And she is still eating her food (dry complete dog food) and doggy treats (crunchy outer with a liquid chicken center)

    I would be very grateful if you could give me your opinion, based on your expertise because if she requires treatment and that is better for her, I would like to go ahead with treatment.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this message,

    Steph x

    1. Thanks Stephanie. I get so many dogs with fractured teeth from chewing Nylabones. I have tried to get the company to stop making them but they of course won't.
      So yes, exposed pulp is painful as it contains nerves, just the same as in humans. So yes it does need treating. Either extraction or a root canal, same as with people. If you can treat a pulpal exposure withing 24 hours of the fracture occurring, you can save the pulp with a procedure called a vital pulpotomy, but that is not always successful.
      Both fractured teeth need attention.
      I can do that for you. It involves a general anaesthetic and hours of work to do the root canals or less time to do the extractions. It depends exactly which teeth are broken as to their relative 'value' in the mouth. I usually prefer to do a root canal for the important teeth (canines and carnassials). Decisions depend on the state of the rest of the teeth and the health of the mouth.
      I'm based in Cwmbran and operate at Summerdale vets.
      Do let me know if you'd like to book an appointment.

      1. Thank you for getting back to me so quickly! I am not keen on the idea of her having extractions if possible. So if the teeth could be saved I would definitely be looking to have RCT.

        Thanks again!

        Steph x

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