Stuart reports on his recent trip to Dublin to attend the European Congress on Veterinary Dentistry (ECVD).

Team Westport are on a dental mission to improve the level of dental care we can give to our furry friends.

It all began about a year ago when one of the vets chose a fascinating series on feline Dentistry for our Journal Club. During the discussions it became very apparent that the majority of vets don’t enjoy performing dental procedures in the same way that many don’t like orthopaedics. This got me thinking as you may know I love orthopaedics! Orthopaedics requires a great deal of further studying,reading and attending courses beyond the theory taught at university. However, vets are taught very little at vet school about dentistry and in general very few attend dentistry courses or continue studying. Instead we learn on the job, watching more experienced vets carrying out the dental procedures.

At Westport Veterinary Clinic we provide the best level of orthopaedic care for your pets so it is our aim to provide the same level of veterinary dentistry to our patients. This is what the team have been up to so far.

In February, Gillian, Graham and I attended Norman Johnston’s Foundations in Veterinary Dentistry Course. This was brilliant with loads of theory mixed in with hands on sessions. I found out that without the correct equipment we couldn’t do the job to the highest level. Westport invested in two modern full dental kits and what a difference! We now have the correct equipment for every size of tooth – no matter what sized cat or dog!

Then I had to take big breath and make THE big purchase – a brand new digital dental x-ray system! This cost a lot of money but we believe in investing in the clinic and Norman Johnston was adamant that without dental x-ray we can’t do the job properly. And he’s right. When I fix a broken leg I need to see the x-rays of the bone so I know how to best approach the repair. The same for a cruciate ligament rupture – without taking x-rays I would only be making a guess at the size of implants I needed to use. And what if there is something unusual going on and I just dive in and try to do the orthopaedic surgery – I could end up with problems. For dentistry we need to know if there are any problems underneath the gum line that we can’t see before we can make a proper treatment plan for each patient.
Our x-ray journey has been a tough one. Learning a brand new skill is not easy, especially when we have to start learning about “bisecting angles” to be able to get good pictures. (I won’t bore you with the details but think along the lines of trigonometry and you get a rough idea).

So we’d had the new x-ray machine for about a month and I was keen to step up to the next level by attending the European Congress on Veterinary Dentistry in Dublin.

Day 1:
Basics in dental radiography – A great session run by an amazingly enthusiastic American specialist vet who really helped to simplify how to get good x-rays
Canine surgical extraction techniques – Lead by a French specalist who taught us some innovative approaches to surgically extracting difficult teeth with the least amount of trauma.

Days 2 & 3:
Lectures covering simple tips and tricks, how to safely anaesthetise patients for dental procedures, more on dental x-rays, periodontal disease in cats, how to approach broken jaws, dental care for senior patients and much more.

Day 4:
Feline surgical extraction techniques – Lead by two Belgian specialists demonstrating some new pieces of equipment to help make these surgeries easier – this lead to another expensive purchase – but I’ve already found these to have been worth every penny!

So was the trip to Dublin worthwhile? A definite yes! My first day back after the congress I had to remove a lower canine in a wee cat who had fractured the tooth when hit by a cat a few weeks earlier. This either had to have root canal treatment or a surgical extraction. It’s the hardest tooth to remove and I’ve removed hundreds of these over the years but with the new equipment and skills I’d learnt in Dublin it was a much easier process! Happy vet = happy pet!

Overall this dental journey has been very hard but great. I know I have a massive amount still to learn and a great deal of further hard work is required to get to where my team and I want to be. But the satisfaction I get from working hard, learning more, and doing a better job for our patients is all the motivation I need to provide the best veterinary care!