Doctor sinks her teeth into veterinary dental care

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  • Bermudian veterinarian Dr Lorraine Hiscox at her practice in Canada, providing dental care to a cat. She is probing each and every tooth, looking for abnormalities at the gumline.

    Bermudian veterinarian Dr Lorraine Hiscox at her practice in Canada, providing dental care to a cat. She is probing each and every tooth, looking for abnormalities at the gumline.

  • Bermudian veterinarian Dr Lorraine Hiscox second with her award from the Charlie Fund.

    Bermudian veterinarian Dr Lorraine Hiscox second with her award from the Charlie Fund.

An Australian cattle dog called Skype was recently surrendered to the Toronto Humane Society with a number of dental problems which the previous pet owners could not afford to fix.

It was unlikely that anyone would want to adopt Skype with so many dental problems, and his future looked bleak.

In stepped Bermudian veterinarian Lorraine Hiscox, 54.

She adopted the dog herself and is taking care of all of Skype’s dental problems. So far, the dog has had two cavities filled, one root canal, and has two more root canals scheduled. Dr Hiscox is also planning to place a crown on these teeth to further protect them once the root canals are completed.

Dr Hiscox is the owner of the Derry Road Animal Hospital in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. She has advanced training in veterinary dentistry and would like to soon begin offering advanced veterinary dental treatment to pet owners in Bermuda.

In Mississauga, she has become a crusader for better pet dental care. She and her staff have just received an award from the Charlie Fund, of the Oakville and Milton Humane Society in recognition of their work providing dental care to shelter animals in their area. The Charlie Fund saves ill and injured homeless animals.

“I do a lot of volunteer work for the Toronto Humane Society and the Oakville Humane Society,” said Dr Hiscox. “Animals in shelters often don’t get adopted because their mouths are rotten. No one wants to adopt them, because they know it will cost money to fix their dental problems. I treat them for a quarter of the cost and that way they are able to find homes because I have done all their work.”

Dr Hiscox was born and raised in Bermuda and attended Warwick Academy. She was raised around animals, dogs, cats, goats and chickens, and always wanted to be a veterinarian. Although she worked for a local veterinarian from the age of 12-years-old, she did not go straight into veterinary science after high school.

“Instead, I took a scholarship with the Bank of Bermuda,” she said. “I worked for Donald Lines, who is retired now. He was chairman of the bank at that time. When I met my husband, Tony, he said ‘why do you keep saying you want to be a vet, why don’t you just do it’. Shortly before our second anniversary, I was accepted to the University of Guelph.”

She graduated in 1987 at the age of 30 and was considered a mature student at that time. The lack of adequate veterinary dental care training was brought home to her early in her education.

“We hadn’t been taught very much about oral care when I was a vet student,” she said. “When you are in vet school, at least in Canada, in the last year they break you into small groups and rotate you around different areas. You might spend a week in medicine, a week in surgery, and a week in opthalmology, for example.

“One day in surgery we had a dog that needed to have his teeth cleaned. The surgeon started to show us how to use an ultrasonic dental cleaner. A friend of mine, said, ‘you don’t clean teeth like that’. He said, ‘how do you know that’, and she said, ‘because I was a dental hygienist, before starting veterinary school’. She ended up teaching us how to clean teeth. It always struck me that no one at vet school knew what they were doing when it came to dental care. When I had my own practice, I decided early on to focus on animals’ teeth. So many animals had diseases in their mouths.”

She started taking courses in veterinary dental care, and had a dental x-ray machine in her clinic, long before it was recommended.

“I didn’t do any formal training, however, because I was busy trying to run my hospital and I was raising two sons, Spencer and Adrian.”

Now that her sons have grown and she has taken on a business partner, she is devoting most of her time to her passion of veterinary dentistry.

Dr Hiscox has been training in advanced veterinary dental procedures for the past four years and is currently able to offer advanced treatments such as root canal (endodontics), paediatric dentistry, orthodontics, advanced dental surgery (extractions and oral tumours and cysts) and she also treats dogs with cavities (restorative dentistry).

She is currently training for advanced professional designations in dentistry and is exploring opportunities to return home to Bermuda to offer these much needed services to Bermudians who have pets.

“If you have a pet, there is a 60 to 75 percent chance that he or she needs some kind of dental treatment beyond just cleaning,” said Dr Hiscox.

She wanted pet owners to understand that pet dental care is not about the cosmetic look of your pet, but about keeping them healthy and pain free.

She said some groomers in the United States and Canada now often offer tooth brushing as part of their services, but this isn’t as good as a veterinary dental cleaning.

“It is recommended that dog and cat owners brush their pets’ teeth four times a week,” said Dr Hiscox. “It often is difficult for people to brush their pets’ teeth and a lot of people don’t which is why they bring their animals in for routine cleaning. We have to anaesthetise the pet so we can get under the gumline. If the vet is not getting under the gums, they are really not doing a good job.”

Besides brushing, pet owners can also offer their cats and dogs Hills t/d for Tartar Control diet, given the seal of approval by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. There is also a special product you can put in your pets drinking water, which helps to minimise plaque accumulation.

She said small breed dogs are sometimes more prone to periodontal disease than larger breeds and may need more frequent veterinary dental cleanings than larger breed dogs, depending on the dog.

For more information about Dr Hiscox see her website at . She welcomes questions from Bermudian pet owners, e-mail her at drahstaff[AT]

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Published Jul 25, 2011 at 9:33 am (Updated Jul 25, 2011 at 9:31 am)

Doctor sinks her teeth into veterinary dental care

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