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Whether she’s performing pet dental procedures herself or sharing her knowledge of the field with other vets, Dr Kayoko Kuroda is passionate about ensuring pets achieve optimal oral health. By Dr Phil Tucak
Pet dental procedures with calculus and plaque removal under general anaesthesia are commonly performed in veterinary clinics across Australia every day. While these procedures might often be thought of as routine, they should be considered anything but, according to Dr Kayoko Kuroda, who is keen to share her learnings to improve small animal dentistry for the better.
Dr Kuroda is passionate about companion animal dentistry and is eager to highlight that practising high-quality dentistry is vital to strengthening the human-animal bond.
“My fundamental philosophy has always been to create change and achieve better outcomes for my patients and their owners. Dentistry has a close tie with animal welfare and plays a crucial role in terms of enhancing and enriching human-animal bonds because procedures relieve pain and discomfort which companion animals are silently suffering from,” says Dr Kuroda.
Dr Kuroda completed her Membership in Small Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery in 2018. She works as an associate veterinarian at Northside Vet Care, a small animal general practice in Brisbane, and also consults at North Coast Veterinary Specialist & Referral Centre on the Sunshine Coast.
Dr Kuroda is also one of three vets with a professional interest in veterinary dentistry working for Mobile Pet Dentistry—alongside Dr Anthony Caiafa in Queensland and Dr Suruchi Perera in Victoria. Her day-to-day work extends from periodontics, pedodontics, orthodontics and endodontics, to maxillofacial surgery—such as oral mass removals and jaw fracture repairs.
“I feel I am extremely blessed, fortunate and privileged to be able to travel both locally and interstate, assisting both veterinarians and their clients, in achieving optimal oral health,” says Dr Kuroda.
“Raising awareness about the importance of dental health in relation to the physical and mental health of my patients starts with a conversation with clients, identifying their concerns, and a thorough physical examination.”
With her vision of creating a difference in her patients’ lives ‘one tooth at a time’, Dr Kuroda has recognised the need for greater provision of continuing education to veterinarians and veterinary nurses about pet dentistry.
“Many graduating veterinarians feel that they have insufficient knowledge in dentistry. Also, I have found that many practitioners end up developing ‘bad habits’ from being self-taught or are completely ‘put off’ practising dentistry due to traumatic experiences and poor patient outcomes while performing dental procedures in general practice,” says Dr Kuroda.
“The most important concept in dentistry carried out in general practice is to understand that dentistry is not a ‘routine’ procedure. There are so many hidden unpredictable factors which can consume your limited time. Therefore, there is no such thing as ‘just a scale and polish’ or ‘just a grade one dental’—I think such culture needs to change.”
For Dr Kuroda, the first key step towards practising high-quality dentistry in veterinary general practice is to always perform a thorough examination of the teeth and oral-facial structure to identify any problems, including taking diagnostic radiographs and interpreting them accurately.
“We all have limited time, and dentistry takes time so it’s important to have a bit of leeway with flexibility and close communication with the client and staff members, so that if and when you have encountered an ‘unpredictable event’ during the dental procedure, you are all prepared to act,” explains Dr Kuroda.
“In dentistry, there is a concept called four-handed dentistry to maximise and streamline the workflow. This is a method of close-knit teamwork in the dental procedure, and performing procedures and treatment together with a clinician and assisting person. Dental radiographs are now considered as a standard of care, and oral surgery including extractions should not be performed unless preoperative radiographs are taken.”
With periodontal disease being one of the most common untreated oral diseases in veterinary general practice, the twin risks that this brings—of plaque-induced disease of the periodontium, and the potential for serious systemic consequences—highlight the importance of optimising dental treatment.
“Dental health and treatment impact our pets’ lives tremendously; therefore, periodontal disease should be managed in conjunction with practising periodontal medicine. It is important to prioritise what needs to be treated first and foremost, to minimise the anaesthetic risk and duration. Treatment planning and staging procedures have significant benefits for patients with greater comorbidities,” says Dr Kuroda.
“And simply, without dental radiographs, it is impossible to provide complete and comprehensive oral and dental treatment. Dental radiographs are performed to discover abnormalities in the oral cavity and disease that could cause problems in the future. The quality of dental radiographs needs to be high—and in order to provide quality oral treatment, you cannot do this without quality dental radiograph equipment.”
Having learned much from her supervisor and mentor Dr Caiafa who founded Mobile Pet Dentistry, Dr Kuroda is keen to help educate other veterinarians on how to implement best practice veterinary dentistry.
“Anthony has always taught me that in dentistry, ‘First, do no harm’. We all have different skill sets in dentistry, so if a general practitioner feels that they may create more harm than potential good by attempting a treatment, then, in my opinion, the case should be referred to someone who is more experienced,” she says.
“Dental instruments and equipment are also highly specialised and designed for certain purposes. If a procedure for a patient requires certain equipment which you don’t have, the case should be referred. Which is, in a way, similar to orthopaedic procedures—for example, you wouldn’t do an orthopaedic procedure with a simple stitch-up kit!”