What is a veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery?

A veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery is a licensed veterinarian who has additional training in the following areas:

  • Periodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Restorative dentistry
  • Oral surgery
  • Prosthodontics
  • Orthodontics

While your general practitioner veterinarian can perform routine teeth cleanings and dental examinations, certain problems require the care of a doctor who has had specialized training in veterinary dentistry in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet. Your veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery will work closely with your general practitioner veterinarian to resolve your pet's dental problems.

Why Does My Pet Need professional veterinary dental care?

Just as your own primary care physician may feel the need to refer you to the care of a specialist from time to time, your general practitioner veterinarian may feel your pet needs the additional expertise of a veterinarian who has advanced dental training for certain conditions, such as root canal therapy or oral surgery. In addition, this veterinarian has access to specialized diagnostic or treatment equipment that can enhance the outcome of your pet's case, as well as specialized knowledge about the most appropriate pain control and medication options needed to treat your pet's dental problem.

It is very important to remember that dental disease is the most common problem to affect small animals of any age. In fact, veterinary experts estimate that up to 80% of dogs and 70% of cats that do not receive proper dental care will develop signs of dental disease by the age of three. For these reasons, it is very important that your pet receives regular dental care and cleanings from your general practitioner veterinarian and, when required, more advanced care from a veterinarian with advanced dental training. (Note: Some veterinarians routinely refer all clients for that aspect of a pet's health care.)

You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet to a veterinarian with advanced dental training is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of care for his or her problem.

What Kinds of Problems Require the Expertise of a Veterinary Dentist?

A veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery can perform all routine veterinary care, such as routine dental examinations and cleanings. They are specially trained, however, to handle more complicated problems such as oral surgery, endodontics ( root canal therapy), complicated surgical extractions, prosthodontics (crown therapy), and orthodontics (yes, pets can wear braces, too!). Oral masses or lesions can also be examined by a veterinarian with advanced training in oral disease.

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

Your regular veterinarian will still supervise your pet's overall veterinary care, and will consult with the referral veterinarian regarding any pre or post treatment care. In general, the referral veterinarian treats the problem and reports findings and recommendations back to your general practitioner veterinarian. In some practices, only non-routine or complicated cases are referred; in other practices, all dental care is referred.

Signs That A Pet May Need Dental Care:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling or excessive salivation
  • Pawing at the teeth or mouth
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth
  • Visible tartar on the teeth
  • Red, irritated, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Difficulty eating
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Swelling under the eyes
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and loss of vitality

Did You Know?

It is common for dogs and cats to not display signs of dental disease. Although broken and loose teeth are painful, pets often either chew on the opposite side of the mouth or swallow the food whole to avoid showing signs of pain. Despite this common lack of clinical symptoms of dental disease, it is important to seek treatment due to the discomfort and infection that can be present.

  • Dogs have 42 permanent teeth while cats have 30.
  • Symptoms of gum disease in dogs and cats include yellow and brown tartar buildup along the gum line, inflamed gums, and bad breath.
  • Smaller breeds of dogs and greyhounds are highly predisposed to developing severe periodontal disease.
  • Dental problems can be a cause of weight loss and loss of appetite in older pets, particularly cats. To rule out an underlying disease, it is recommended that all older pets receive an examination, including blood-testing and, if warranted, chest x-rays, prior to their dental procedure.
  • Orthodontic devices are available for pets with bite abnormalities that need correction.

Tooth Talk NewsletterTooth Talk Newsletter

Tooth Talk is a monthly newsletter devoted to the topic of veterinary dentistry for companion animals and is produced for the veterinary community. Written by Dr. Mary Buelow (practice limited to dentistry), it's an educational resource featuring topical articles about dentistry and dental surgery protocols and techniques as well as interesting case studies.

Download our Tooth Talk newsletters to print them out or read on your computer or mobile device.


Mary Buelow, DVM 
Diplomate, The American Veterinary Dental College

Office hours: Appointment's are facilitated through referring veterinarian only.
Please call 24 hours in advance during office hours for all medication and food refills.



While your general practitioner veterinarian can perform routine teeth cleanings and dental examinations, certain problems require the care... More

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