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Oral biology and disorders of lagomorphs.

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Department of Oral Pathology, University Dental Hospital of Manchester, Animal Medical Centre Referral Services, Manchester, UK.


Rabbit medicine, and dentistry in particular, is still at an early stage of development. With an understanding of the underlying oral physiology it is possible to devise an appropriate treatment regime for most dental problems after the nature and extent of disease has been assessed. Although many of the dental problems that are seen in practice cannot be cured, most can be controlled or managed to allow the affected rabbit to maintain a good quality of life. The continuously growing nature of the teeth makes recurrence and progression of problems the norm, so owner education and ongoing monitoring of animals is essential. By assessing the effects, beneficial or otherwise, of out treatments and communicating this to others, we will develop our knowledge and skills. Several treatments that are suggested in this article must be considered as "experimental" because they have not been assessed in large numbers of animals. If they work for you, or more importantly, if you find unexpected complications with a treatment method (as has happened with the use of calcium hydroxide paste treatment of abscess cavities) then please publicize the fact so that others can avoid the problem. Until the message on prevention can be reliably transmitted to owners, we will continue to have oral and dental problems to manage. After confidence and experience has been gained in anesthetizing rabbits it is possible to refine one's dental skills to be able to rapidly perform a thorough examination and basic treatments. Major and complex treatments require careful consideration because they may add to the animal's problems, rather than improving the situation. The best method for learning rabbit dentistry is to routinely perform postmortem examinations following euthanasia of affected animals, and spend an hour or two practicing handling the instruments and performing procedures on a cadaver. If you are not confident in your ability or do not have the best equipment for the job, the client should be informed and offered the opportunity to be referral to a "specialist."

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