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Periodontal probing and charting in veterinary nursing

02 March 2015
17 mins read
Volume 6 · Issue 2


Dental work is commonly performed in small animal veterinary practice. Everybody involved in the provision of this service should be knowledgeable regarding dental anatomy and terminology. Oral assessment is fundamental to the planning and execution of thorough and appropriate treatment, and should be undertaken in every patient. The veterinary nurse is often involved in patient assessment during various clinics, perioperatively and when tending to inpatients. Therefore, the veterinary nurse is a key person in identifying and documenting problems and providing advice to clients. As such, a veterinary nurse must be proficient in performing conscious oral examinations, but equally competent in the process of probing teeth and charting the findings when the animal is anaesthetised. This article provides an overview of the relevant anatomy and terminology associated with the oral cavity, followed by a discussion about how and what to record when probing a patient's teeth under general anaesthetic.

In order to perform a thorough assessment of the oral cavity and dentition, a veterinary nurse (VN) must possess a good level of knowledge regarding tooth structure, the relevant anatomy of the gingival margin and periodontium, and the different tooth types present in dogs and cats. In addition to this, they must be familiar with a lot of oral and dental terminology, dental formulae, tooth root morphology and standardised tooth-numbering systems. With this knowledge, the VN will be more confident at performing conscious oral examinations on patients. More specifically, the VN will also be better able to perform thorough assessments while the patient is under general anaesthesia (GA). The findings from these assessments under GA should be charted by the VN to provide information to the veterinary surgeon (VS) regarding the health of each individual tooth, who can then diagnose any problems, decide on which oral radiographs need taking by the VN and formulate the most appropriate treatment plan for the animal.

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