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COHAT = Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment & Therapy

This term was born through discussions on the Veterinary Information Network as veterinarians tried to deal with the frustrations that come from using common terms such as "a dental" or a "routine prophy". 

It's very common for pet owners to call around to various pet hospitals and ask "How much is a dental for my dog?"  What is wrong with using the term "a dental"?  For one thing, the word "dental" is an adjective, as in dental disease, dental pain, dental school, dental instrument.  It is not a noun.  You cannot get "a dental" done for your pet any more than you can get "a medical" done for you.

Asking how much a "dental" costs would be like calling restaurants to ask "How much does dinner cost?", or asking a car dealer "How much does a car cost?"  There is so much more that needs to be known in order to compare.  Are you looking for a fast-food meal, casual dining or an elegant restaurant to impress someone special?  Does that meal include dessert and drinks?  Does this car have leather upholstery and a fine sound system?  Is it new or used?  What is the expected MPG?  Is there a service warrantee with car exchange included?

Things you need to know when comparing dentistry treatments include:

  • Does this include a safe gas anesthesia?
  • Who will be monitoring my pet while under anesthesia?  Does that include blood pressure and pulse oximetry monitoring?
  • What safety precautions will be taken to reduce the anesthetic risks?  Are IV fluids included?
  • What additional training has the doctor and staff had that assure a thorough treatment?
  • How long is the cleaning procedure expected to take?  (Less than 30 minutes is not likely to be very thorough, more than 60 minutes means the staff isn't very well trained.)
  • What measures will be taken for pain control?  Will it include local nerve blocks?
  • Are extractions performed just if the tooth is loose and ready to fall out?  Are they performed with surgical precision to enhance healing or just dug out and left open?
  • Are digital dental x-rays routinely taken to evaluate the bone structure below the gums?
  • What measures are taken to delay the recurrence of bacterial invasion of the teeth?
  • Does the doctor have the ability (training and equipment) to treat chipped & broken teeth, perform root canal therapy, do root planing and treat other painful conditions beyond the basics?  If not, what happens when such conditions are identified?

A true COHAT has 23 steps, as defined by Fraser A. Hale, DVM, FAVD, Diplomate AVDC (BTW: all those extra letters after his name indicate the number of specialty certificates he has in veterinary dentistry).

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