I am often asked, “Why should I get a Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS) in Dentistry?” For each of the members of the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians, the reason may be different but the overwhelming theme is personal growth and satisfaction. Is the program hard? You betcha! I recently read a post on Facebook that states: “If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great!” I would love to encourage Veterinary Technicians to realize that anything is possible if they try, but only they can make the changes and accept the challenges.
Bringing the wonders of veterinary dentistry to both veterinarians and their staff has become a passion of mine over the years. To be quite honest, if you had told me 30 years ago that I would become a Registered Veterinary Technician and a Veterinary Technician Specialist in Dentistry, I would have laughed and said, yeah sure! But all the stars were aligned and here I am today, owning my own veterinary dental consulting business- Beyond the Crown Veterinary Education. I have the pleasure of serving on the Board for the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry, the National Association for Veterinary Technicians of America, and the Kansas Veterinary Technician Association and am Treasurer for AVDS and for the AVDT. Speaking at major veterinary conferences, assisting veterinary dentists in labs as well as teaching technicians, providing in-clinic dental training, and working with some amazing veterinary technicians in all aspects of veterinary medicine has been a tremendous honor. I have been asked to write many articles over the years and wrote a chapter in the AVDT textbook released in 2013. This would not have been possible without the time and effort of becoming a VTS (Dentistry).
This journey began in December of 1992 when I interviewed with a small research company associated with the University of Kansas (yes, KU not that other Kansas institution!). My family had just moved to Lawrence, KS after my husband had gotten out of the U.S. Army for the first time (he reenlisted and retired after 24 years of service!). Dr. John Hefferren offered me a position as the administrative assistant for Odontex, Inc. and that is where my passion for dentistry began. I soon began to perform more than administrative duties, while under the tutelage of Dr. Ellen Lowery (Logan), I was trained as a dental substrate evaluator and continued to work with Odontex moving to the position of Vice President of Operations. During this time I obtained my Laboratory Animal Technologist credentials through AALAS but still felt something was missing so I continued my education by attending the Veterinary Technology Program at St. Petersburg College and becoming a Registered Veterinary Technician in 1999. I was then asked to join the organizing committee for the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians and received my VTS (Dentistry) in 2006.
My experience with research was one of the most valuable experiences of my lifetime. Even though I left Odontex, Inc. in 2005 to join a general practice as the practice manager and dental technician, I still stay active in research by working with companies as they test their products to obtain the VOHC Seal of Approval. Having the opportunity of spending over seven years in private practice has given me new insight into the challenges seen in a general practice relating to building a thriving dental practice.
I have always enjoyed teaching and seeing the faces of the students when they realize that dentistry is no longer that “necessary evil “ all technicians must deal with each day. Nothing is more satisfying than having someone tell you they no longer hate dentistry because you have made it fun and interesting. The biggest rewards are the clients who come back for the follow-up visit and tell me how well their dog is doing now. “I have a puppy again!”
My advice to Veterinary Technicians with an interest in dentistry – is never to pass up an opportunity for continuing education or the chance to advance in yourself and your career. If you want to see changes in our profession it is up to you! Become involved in your local, state, or national organization; promote your profession in a positive and professional manner. You never know who you will meet along the way and how those individuals may influence you and help you on your career path. Take pride in yourself and your profession!