November 20, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 38

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HSC, Palo Alto College teach veterinary dental hygiene

Allied Health

Faculty of the School of Allied Health Sciences have teamed with faculty of the Palo Alto College Veterinary Technology Program to encourage students to become certified as veterinary dental technicians.

Each year since 1998, more than 40 students from the Palo Alto College Veterinary Technology Program visit the Health Science Center to take part in a full day of presentations, lectures and a hands-on lab experience with adult Beagle dogs with moderate to severe periodontitis.

Students learn to assess the animalís periodontal health, chart diseases, and perform scaling and root planning. The objective is to reduce the level of inflammation in the dogís oral tissues. Students practice these techniques on the anesthetized Beagles under the supervision of Dr. Richard Haines, veterinarian in the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources.

Dr. Mary Lou Peters, an instructor in the Veterinary Technology Program at Palo Alto College, said animal dentistry is a growing field and the Health Science Center is helping to train her students for careers in the field.

"Through the Health Science Center, our students have access to resources that we just donít have right now at Palo Alto," said Dr. Peters. "Our students are grateful to the Health Science Center for this program because they walk away with a lot of benefits. This is one of the highlights of their semester."

Sharon Pirk, assistant professor of dental hygiene in the School of Allied Health Sciences, said more registered dental hygienists are becoming interested in veterinary dental hygiene because it offers them another career option.

"Graduates from the vet tech program or dental hygiene program with a background in veterinary dental hygiene can gain a job in a university setting where animal research is done, or in a veterinarianís office where veterinary dentistry is offered to clients," said Pirk. "Further, a veterinary dental hygienist can work as a consultant and train vet techs who get their training from performing on-the-job veterinary dental cleanings."

Pirk said she hopes to expand the relationship between the Health Science Center and Palo Alto College by joining efforts to create continuing education courses and labs for veterinary technicians.