Following graduation from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary medicine in 1967, assignment to the Military Working Dog Hospital, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio became the starting point for a career in veterinary dentistry. Basic root canal procedures were already being done and, after a year, I assumed responsibility for dental services for the military dogs. An air force dentist explained root canal procedures and helped develop needed surgical skills. When my tour of duty ended, 20 to 30 root canal procedures a month were being done. My military career highlights included selection as Junior Officer of the Quarter, Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Additional training was necessary to pursue dentistry in veterinary medicine. In 1970, a special program was developed in the University of Texas Dental Branch, Houston. Courses were taken from the four-year dental program and the post-doctoral specialty areas. The help given during those two years by the UT Dental Branch staff and students will always be appreciated. A thesis in endodontics was completed and a Master of Science Degree from the University of Texas was awarded in 1972.
The (Houston) Veterinary Dental Clinic opened in the summer of 1972. At that time, clinical veterinary dentistry was just the cleaning and extraction of teeth. Gradually, the value of animal dentistry began to be appreciated by both the veterinary community and pet owners. In 1975, the dental clinic moved and shared an emergency clinic facility in Southwest Houston. The arrangement expanded, into a group of four specialty practices. In 1982, the dental clinic moved into one of the Pet Vet small animal hospitals and functioned there for over 20 years. In 1985, the UT Dental Branch requested I assume directorship of their animal research facility. Although on a part-time basis, I accepted to help a school that had been good to me. Four years working with dental educators was almost as productive as the original training.
In the 70's and 80's, dentistry became a focal point for veterinary medicine. Providing dental educational programs across the nation and writing dental chapters in four veterinary textbooks was a major part of my time and effort. There were also lectures to give to animal and breeding groups; humane organizations and' veterinary technician training programs.
The development of organized veterinary dentistry began in 1976. I helped form the Veterinary Dental Society and was asked to be the first president. The group grew rapidly and formed The Academy of Veterinary Dentistry in 1987. Dr. Peter Emily and I wrote the first examination for that group. In 1988, I was one of eight veterinarians selected by the AVMA to organize the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Again, I helped write the first examination. Within the AVDC, I have served on the AVDC Board of Directors, the Examination Committee, the Credentials Committee and presented numerous lectures at national meetings. The AVDC Outstanding Service Award was presented to me in 1998. The AVDC now numbers almost 100 members, several from other nations. From this group have come organizations in Europe; South America, Australia and Japan. Several veterinarians have studied in my practice and two have become diplomats of the AVDC.
My clinical practice has been limited to veterinary dentistry for over 30 years and, in 2004, my dream clinic came to reality in southwest Houston. Recent efforts have included introducing a new root canal system and, in the next few years, I hope to help introduce dental implant techniques.
Of the awards received over the years, the ones this year from the Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the A&M College of Veterinary Medicine were especially meaningful. The future of veterinary dentistry is now in the hands of many individuals across the nation capable of expanding dental care and challenging the next generation of veterinarians to do even more.
Veterinary Dental Clinic
Open 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday