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On course

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Mariana Pacheco is the senior vet at White Cross Vets, Derby. She travelled to North Berwick to attend a dental course.

Who taught the course?

Norman Johnston, an American and European Specialist in veterinary dentistry. Over the years, he has built a specialist dentistry referral hospital and performed dentistry in species including polar, sun and Asiatic black (moon) bears, lions, tigers, African wild dogs, gorillas, chimps and other primates. It’s an important discipline.

Who is it for?

This course is suitable for recent graduates or any vet who wants to improve their skills; that’s why I decided to enrol. Dentistry is one of the most important aspects of veterinary health care, as important as vaccination and medical care.

Why is it important?

Ideally, dental procedures should contribute a high proportion of our daily surgical slots, but it can be difficult to convince clients that their pet has dental disease and that it needs to be addressed.

As dental disease is so common, investing in equipment, training and improving skills represents one of the most cost-effective developments of the practice and, as a result, will help us achieve greater health benefits for our patients.

Historically, treatment involved extracting loose teeth and cleaning those that remained. This may be an outdated approach. Currently, dentistry skills require a thorough and complete dental and oral examination, using a chart, periodontal probe and dental radiography. This course will help me achieve an accurate diagnosis and, consequently, an appropriate and efficient treatment plan.

What was involved?

The course begins in the evening with a lecture accompanied by pizza and then a practical hands-on wet lab the following day.

The course covered topics such as anatomy, preventive treatment, periodontal disease, the dental workplace, equipment, radiography, economics and marketing in veterinary dentistry.

On the second day, it was hands-on practical veterinary dentistry to increase our confidence to:

  • Recognise and treat dental conditions;

  • Set up a dental clinic and promote oral health care;

  • Do dental radiography;

  • Know equipment (what instruments are for, how to correctly use and maintain them);

  • Complete an oral examination with charting;

  • Give adequate perioperative care for dental cases.

The course covered commonly encountered conditions in small animal practice, using a case-based discussion format. Conditions such as periodontal disease, dento-alveolar trauma (eg, tooth wear, tooth fractures) and feline dental problems (eg, resorption and malocclusions) were discussed. I also practised performing mucogingival flaps and surgical extractions. As a result, I no longer dread difficult extractions.

What did you learn?

I found the course really helpful. I refined my skills and it helped me better appreciate the dentistry aspect of our profession. The course was clear, thorough and personalised, closely monitored by the skilled and helpful DentalVets team. I thoroughly enjoyed it too, and felt I really learned a lot.

How do you use what you learned in your day-to-day work?

Since the course, dentistry has become a pleasure for me. I am more confident and efficient in my approach to dental cases and able to diagnose dental problems better.

It has revolutionised my dentistry knowledge, which will allow me to do a better job as a veterinary surgeon.

How much did it cost?

£906 including VAT; it has a maximum of four delegates. It is a personalised and closely monitored course with a very skilled and helpful team. The course is amazing and intense but there is no exam needed to complete it. I felt I learned a lot and strongly recommend it to my colleagues.

There is so much more to learn and training will stop you avoiding ‘difficult’ things because, with practice, they will become easy!

Thanks should go to Norman too, for sharing his knowledge, his availability and enthusiasm.

Where do you get further details?,

e-mail:, telephone 01620 890002.

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