make Vet Answers my homepage

Veterinary Dental Charting for Dummies

Posted in Guest Blogger @ Jul 30th 2020 - By Dr Liz Chmurycz, Russell Vale Animal Clinic
Veterinary Dental Charting For Dummies 2

Are you overlooking one of the most inexpensive yet effective tools  in the dental services you offer?  Even better, it's one that your veterinary clients really appreciate & value.

Updated resources July 2020

As many veterinary hospitals are now equipped with dental radiography (yeah!), many feel that this is enough to record the pathology identified.  Other veterinarians say dental radiography is still too expensive for them, and/or they cannot see the benefit, yet both sides overlook a vital, yet inexpensive procedure – the Dental Chart with the handy dandy Periodontal probe.

The importance of good dental records is crucial, but giving the pet owner a copy of the information increases their engagement and understanding.  

If your dental records reads “acp/meth premed, thio iv, routine scale and polish, few incisors removed”, then please consider improving your records.

There are many pet dental charts available, with most veterinary software including charts as standard.  IM3 and the AVDS are  very happy to share theirs (see below).

For those who are VIN members, they have recently updated their dental charts too.  The VIN dental chart is the one I have been using for the past two years – and the pet owners have loved it as they have been able to understand easily the pathology in their pet’s mouth.

Irrespective of which dental chart you choose, the most important part of the charting process is developing a system that is consistent from pet to pet, and from year to year.

Like every other procedure it comes at a cost - time.  It is a learning curve - it will feel time wasting.   

However, in reality creating a dental chart SAVES time.  The pathology is well documented with a logical coherent treatment plan, which is easily communicated to the anxious pet owner. Once you get the “Go ahead”, you can work much more efficiently.

How much time have you wasted “umming” and “aahing” on what is the best thing to do?   A objectively filled dental chart will save you time.

There is a quick and easy way to perform a Dental Chart:

Love your Perio Probe! This is the first dental instrument you should put your hands on, as with its graduations, you are able to do one of the most important diagnostic tests for periodontal disease – measuring the gingival pocket depth, and if you wish to be really precise, take into account your gingival recession depth too.

 It is THE most important measurement as it helps you answer these questions: Does the pet need periodontal therapy?  Use of a periceutical?  Root planning? Gingivectomy? Extraction? 

With our pet in left lateral recumbency, place the periodontal probe on the right central incisor. Roll it around the entire tooth (not just one spot) – on the chart we write in our perio depth (multiple numbers if needed), the gingivitis (G0 to G4) and  calculus score (C0 to C4).

1. A periodontal probe inserted into the gingival space around the entire tooth to give a perio depth

2. The probe's graduations give an indication of depth of 'the gap'. Always 'Mind the Gap'


Go onto the next tooth and repeat. If there is any other pathology identified, record it. After charting on the one side, complete the dental xrays.  Then do the other side. Sometimes, in trench mouths, it is useful to radiograph first, and then chart.

Gingival Index


Calculus Index

0No inflammation0Normal
1Pin point bleeding on probing only1Specks or streaks of plaque/tartar
2Visually red, mild swollen gums, bleeding on probing2Tartar less than 50% of  crown
3Very red, swollen gums, easily bleeding3Tartar more than 50% of crown
4Gum bleeds by looking at it, blue red puffy gum margins4Tartar on crown and root
 Normal Period Depth Cats:    0 - 0.5  Normal Perio Depth Dogs up to 3mm

You can easily find the correct dental codes online, but the more common problems include:

  • Missing (a circle around the tooth),
  • Rotated (ROT),  
  • Unerupted (U),
  • Retained baby teeth(RD), 
  • Fractured teeth(Fx),
  • Enamel defects (E) or enamel hypoplasia (EH),
  • Furcation exposure (F) ,
  • Mobility (M),
  • Retained roots (RR),
  • Gingival recession (GR) and crowding (CR), as well as malocclusion classes.

At  discharge a copy is sent home with the pet owner with detailed home care instructions which automatically adds a value and importance to what was done that day.   A pdf version is saved and attached to the pet’s file as well as the essential information transferred to the medical file.

3. A dental chart completed, ready for reference in the future

We have found a greater engagement and acceptance of our dental recommendations by pet owners, through supporting them with the information they need to make the right decision for their loved one.   This is especially important as we know that a “dental” isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime procedure, and we need to communicate this point with our pet owners.  

Happy Charting!


Updated in 2020: World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Dental Guidelines, published July 2020 (126 pages, PDF)

"These guidelines were developed to provide veterinarians with the information required to understand best practices for dental therapy and create realistic minimum standards of care"

IM3 have kindly agreed to share the Australian Veterinary Dental Society Dental Charts for dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs

1. AVDS Canine Dental Record   2. AVDS Feline Dental Record

3. AVDS Guinea Pig Dental Record    4. AVDS Rabbit Dental Record

The American Veterinary Dental Society have also agreed to share their guidelines on how to complete a thorough dental chart (for the purists) and some other dental charts (7 page pdf document).

Example of a completed VIN dental chart (use authorised by VIN)

We have found this version to be easy to explain to pet owners as they can see what teeth are missing, which teeth were x-rayed and which teeth were extracted. Depending on the situation we also sometimes paint them in different colours.

If you have amy questions for Liz about Dental Charting, why not ask her in the comments section below?

About Liz

Dr Liz Chmurycz is a  companion animal veterinarian, based at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, in Wollongong, Australia. As a solo vet and business owner, she is also a mother of four children. She is passionate about the veterinary profession, and the animals she sees. 

You can read Dr Liz's Blog here: Dr Liz...the vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic

Like 'Russell Vale Animal Clinic' on Facebook & click here to follow Dr Liz on Twitter - Russell Vale Vets 


Sammi-Jo @ May 6th 2016 11:26am
Im after the VIN dental chart for dogs if possible. Im a junior vet nurse and would like a copy to help me learn the terminology as the lay out is very easy to understand. Thank you
Judy @ May 6th 2016 2:31pm
Hi Sammi-Jo, thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately VIN wouldn't give approval for us to add in a blank Dental Chart which is why we could only include a completed version. Have you spoken with any of the vets you work with? They may be members of VIN and therefore able to access the chart. Regards, Judy
Bruna Smith @ Jun 29th 2018 6:22am
Hi am a veterinary medicine student will graduate in 2020 and I have taken an interest in dentistry, and would like to start learning and getting used to the terms and better prepared before I graduate and enroll in a veterinary dentistry course. Thank you very much.
Judy @ Jun 29th 2018 11:41am
Hi Bruna, thanks for your comment and it's great to hear you're already interested in dentistry as it's an area with a lot of opportunity. If you'd like to read more posts on the topic, just visit 'Festival of All Things Dental' in the blog categories on the top right hand side of this page. Regards Judy

Add Your Comments

All comments will be submitted to the administrator for approval.

To prevent spam, please type in the code found in the red box to verify you are a real person.
  Required fields

Blog Categories


Recent Blog Entries


Tag Cloud

follow us on twitter