2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats released

Published on April 10, 2019
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Sequence for a dental cleaning and periodontal treatment
This figure from the 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats illustrates the sequence for a dental cleaning and periodontal treatment. (A) Plaque- and calculus-laden right maxillary fourth premolar tooth. (B) Placement of the ultrasonic scaler tip against the crown before activation. (C) Activation and tuning of the ultrasonic scaler to deliver a cooling irrigation mist. (D) Removal of plaque and calculus. (E) Removal of plaque and calculus from the developmental groove. (F) Cleaned tooth. (Photos courtesy of Dr. Jan Bellows)

To help veterinary practitioners navigate the complex and changing world of veterinary dentistry, the American Animal Hospital Association has released an update to the 2013 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.

"The 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats outline a comprehensive approach to support companion animal practices in improving the oral health and often, the quality of life of their canine and feline patients," according to the abstract.

The 2019 guidelines include the following new information:

  • An expanded and updated discussion of commonly performed veterinary dental procedures, supported by photos that illustrate oral pathology and therapeutic techniques.
  • Criteria for periodontal disease staging.
  • The importance of addressing pain and stress in dental patients.
  • Client communication tips for explaining the importance and rationale behind specific dental and oral procedures.

"Regular dental care is one of the most powerful ways we can improve the quality of life of our patients," said Dr. Michael Cavanaugh, AAHA CEO, in a March 8 announcement about the new guidelines. "AAHA continues to support the use of general anesthesia in dental procedures to promote appropriate diagnostic capabilities and decrease patient stress, injury, and risk of aspiration. Because home care is crucial in the support of a healthy, pain-free mouth, client communication and education remain central to these guidelines."

The guidelines cover dental terminology; anatomy and pathology; strategies for prevention of dental disease; patient assessment, evaluation, and documentation; dental procedures; considerations for anesthesia, sedation, and analgesia; how to address pain; the role of veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants; requirements for facilities, equipment, and operator safety; and client communication and education.

The guidelines are available in the March-April issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association or at the AAHA website.

Related JAVMA content:

True Prophylaxis (Jan. 15, 2016)

New dental standard required for AAHA accreditation (Oct. 15, 2013)