This is in regard to Heidi Emmerling`s Perspective article in August 1997. As a practicing veterinarian for 14 years with a special interest in dentstiry (and an avid RDH reader) I was not only disappointed but confused by Ms. Emmerling`s comments. I believe the confusion arose from her merging a managed care philosophy with an advisory role that ADHA is taking with the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). As we in the veterinary profession are still working on a fee-for-service basis (and hope to continue to...), I will address only the liaison issue. The ADHA is not "diverting resources of energy and money away" as Ms. Emmerling suggests, since there is no line item, budgetary, or grant monies involved whatsoever in their advisory role.
Who benefits from this "team approach?" Again, I will quote Ms. Emmerling: "Dental caries, gingivitis, and periodontitis can be prevented through regular preventive care." Because of the education that the fine dental profession has done, it is much easier for our pet-owning clients to see the benefits of resolution and control of periodontal disease in their animals. Thanks to the many dentists and hygienists I know (that, fortunately, do not share Ms. Emmerling`s views on pet dental diseases), we have established an excellent periodontal operatory at our hospital. Taking an RDH client through our operatory and detailing the hand instruments, power scalers, and perio therapy that we use recently elicited this comment: "Boy, we don`t even have an Odontoson unit in our human practice!" Many of our clients ask us questions about periodontal disease left unchecked. This, I believe, has a "feedback" effect in how the clients view their own dental care.
The disappointment I felt was Ms. Emmerling`s comment that "the relatively short lifespan of most domestic animals makes perio a mute point." While it is true that animals age faster than humans, it is also true that the effect of periodontal disease is magnified from this aging phenomenon. We see much more severe grades of this disease as one-year unchecked perio can advance like seven years in a human, in addition to the life-threatening bacteremia it causes. All of this disease prevention helps to strengthen and lengthen the human/animal bond, a bond that many times is stronger than human bonds.
In closing, I found it ironic that this type of editorial should surface since not long ago an RDH cover story detailed a happy Golden Retriever and Ms. Carol Weldin, detailing the benefits RDHs have brought to the veterinary profession.
Perhaps Ms. Emmerling should "get out" more and visit the majority of veterinary practices where modern periodontal therapies are employed and RDHs are held in very high regard. Then she could see for herself where the ADHA liaison position with the Veterinary Dental College is a major benefit not only for the pets, but their human counterparts.
Thomas J. Klein, DVM
Editor`s note: In the November 1997 Readers` Forum, I mentioned a dog named Beau. Well, Beau died eight years ago and is now a part of the Hartley family`s folklore. His replacement is Sophie, a five-year-old Boston Terrier. I showed your letter to her, and she gave it a "four-paws-up" review. It was better than a George Clooney back rub, she said. Thanks for writing. We, of course, were not surprised that RDH published different views of veterinary dentistry presented by Emmerling and Weldin. It comes with the territory of being an independent trade publication.