Annual Veterinary Dental Forum: Learning the Latest in New Orleans

By: Dr. Dave Thompson

For me, the highlight of my year is attending The Annual Veterinary Dental Forum.  This national meeting on the latest dental and anesthetic topics with speakers from around the world is a once-a-year, fantastic opportunity to learn the latest dental techniques.  It is really exciting to know that I am hearing the very newest information available. Topics like Advanced Periodontal Therapy and Flap Surgery, Methods to Increase Gingival Attachment, Eliminating Pain with Restorative Dentistry, Correcting Base Narrow Canines, Current Concepts of Bone Augmentation, Oral Fracture Repair and many other topics empower me to eliminate painful conditions and save teeth that otherwise would require a specialist (our closest dental specialists are in Charlotte and Greenville).

I spend most of every day bent over a table providing dental surgery to cats and dogs. Along with the surgery, I spend a lot of time assessing the condition of patients’ mouths and trying to teach people how to care for their pet’s teeth and the importance of home dental care. People often ask me why I love my work so much.  My answer is simple.  Oral disease is the most common affliction of pets and it can make them miserable.  I greatly enjoy being able to bring pets comfort and eliminating the infections they have been suffering from.  I know that every day that I spend working results in a better quality of life for my patients, and that it is likely they will live longer than they would have if they had not had this care.  For instance, performing three straight hours of very precise and delicate surgery on a beloved fourteen year old cat is grueling but I never rush and I never grow tired of it because I know that the cat is going to feel so much better.  My greatest reward is when a client tells me, “Wow, I thought my cat was just getting old, but now he is eating me out of house and home and acting like he is young again.”

I must admit, though, that there is another facet of my work that I enjoy.  I feel very fortunate to have the very best equipment. I get great pleasure not just from handling all the pieces of equipment and learning to use them, but also from knowing that this equipment allows me to provide precise and delicate care which results in less post operative pain or discomfort for my patients.  I just don’t know any job that could be better!

Two of our wonderful certified veterinary technicians who are part of my dental team, Emily and Jodi, also accompanied Dr. Betsy Thompson and me on this trip.  Emily and Jodi perform expert dental cleanings, and when I am bent over the table doing surgery, they are right there carefully monitoring anesthesia and assisting me. They are a key part of providing quality, loving care. They put in long days, often with very little chance for a break, but they love dentistry too. The topics at this meeting for veterinary technicians included Pain Management Start to Finish, Nerve Blocks – The Role of the Technician, Periodontal Cleanings – Can This Tooth Be Saved, Management of Dental Emergencies, Oral Anatomy and Charting, Creating an Oral Home Care Regimen, Dental Radiology, Anesthesia Monitoring and others. Emily and Jodi were thrilled to have the opportunity to increase their skills and knowledge, and I feel very lucky to have these conscientious veterinary technicians working with me.

None of the four of us had ever visited New Orleans before, so when class let out at 5:30 each evening, we really enjoyed the opportunity to see the sights.  Right outside our hotel was the French Quarter with buildings built as early as the 1700’s.  The restaurants and the seafood, the trolley cars and the music were all wonderful.  The weather was in the 70’s, so not only did I get to study my favorite subject each day, I enjoyed New Orleans!  What could be better?