Dentistry: how to probe and chart
A thorough examination of the oral cavity, teeth and peridontium under general anaesthetic is essential to enable the veterinary surgeon to make an informed diagnosis and recommend an appropriate, individually-tailored treatment plan to owners for their pets. A conscious examination of the oral cavity can provide clues as to what pathology might be present associated with these tissues; however the existence and more importantly the extent of any pathology cannot be truly discovered until the patient is anaesthetised. This article aims to outline the process of oral cavity and dental assessment under general anaesthetic to facilitate optimal treatment plan creation.
The oral cavity comprises the lips, mucosal tissues, tongue, teeth and periodontal structures supporting the teeth. All of these must be visually assessed by the veterinary nurse (VN) or veterinary surgeon (VS) to identify any pathology while the animal is conscious, noting anything suspicious or abnormal on the clinical records.
This conscious assessment is the first stage of the process because the VN or VS will most likely make initial contact with the client and patient during a consultation. If a problem is suspected or pathology has been identified, reassessment of the oral cavity visually and via the use of instruments once the animal is anaesthetised, coupled with diagnostic imaging, is then essential. All of the findings from assessment under anaesthetic should be recorded on a dental chart, and the VS can then use this information to decide on a treatment plan (Holmstrom et al, 2004).