This article describes the core competencies recommended for inclusion in the veterinary curriculum for all veterinary graduates based on the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Competency-Based Veterinary Education document. General practice companion animal veterinarians are frequently presented with patients having dental, oral, or maxillofacial pathology, and veterinary graduates will be relied upon for recommendations for the maintenance of oral health, including the prevention of periodontal disease, identification of endodontic disease, and knowledge of developmental defects. These recommendations should be made for all veterinary patients starting at a young age. These core competencies can apply to many companion species, but mainly are focused on the dog and cat.
Because periodontal disease is the most common abnormality observed in dogs and cats, the first key step is taking a few seconds during examination of every patient of any age presented for any reason to examine the oral cavity. Although dental, oral, and maxillofacial pathology is often diagnosed after imaging and evaluation under anesthesia, the first step is observation of dentition and gingivae during the conscious exam to assess periodontal health status. The physical exam of the oral cavity may reveal oral behavior (eg, observation of uncomplicated crown fractures due to chewing on hard objects), which will permit recommendations for enhanced prevention by daily oral hygiene or professional treatment.
There are now many involved dental and surgical treatments available, some of which require specialist-level instrumentation and expertise. General practitioners should be able to competently perform the following immediately upon graduation from veterinary school:
For patients for whom the owner’s reason for the veterinary visit is not dental, oral, or maxillofacial disease, obtain a brief (1 or 2 questions) history of the oral health of the patient.
On lifting the lip of every patient, recognize presence or absence of accumulated dental plaque or calculus on the crowns of the teeth, presence or absence of gingival inflammation or ulceration, and presence or absence of other dental, oral, and maxillofacial pathology.
On anesthetized patients that have dental, oral, and maxillofacial pathology for which professional treatment is indicated, be able to obtain and interpret appropriately positioned and exposed dental radiographs.
When the presence of dental, oral, and maxillofacial pathology is recognized, determine whether each tooth present in the mouth does or does not require professional treatment beyond dental subgingival and supragingival scaling and polishing.
List the indications for tooth extraction, know indications for potential oral/dental treatments beyond subgingival and supragingival scaling and polishing or extraction, and determine whether the professional treatment that may be indicated, such as root canal treatment or mass resection of oral tissues, requires referral for specialist-level expertise and instrumentation.
Complete a thorough periodontal evaluation and therapy with periodontal probing, including professional subgingival and supragingival ultrasonic scaling with polishing under anesthesia.
Demonstrate the ability to extract teeth indicated for extraction, using gentle and appropriate techniques that will risk minimal injury to the jaws and oral soft tissues and reduce postoperative patient pain.
Provide appropriate postoperative care, including recognition of when postoperative analgesia and possibly antibiotic administration are indicated.