Cavities, periodontal disease, tooth loss and decay - these are only a few of the dental issues that your patients struggle with on a daily basis. Can you imagine the situation if you knew they had a problem but they could not tell you about it?
According to Jens Ruhnau, this problem, and his urge to solve it, are what made him who he is today: the first, and only, certified European veterinary dental specialist in Denmark.
When nature calls
For the last 15 years Jens has proved that there is a huge need for a dentist who can take care of animals with the same care and competence he would use to take care of humans.
We met with Jens in Måløv, where he runs the AniCura TandDyreklinikken, a veterinary clinic dedicated exclusively to animals' dental needs. He said, “I was working as a general practitioner in a veterinary hospital and at some point someone asked me what would I like to have as my specialty. The same day we had a dental case, a fractured tooth. I didn’t have a clue what to do with it and neither did anybody else in the clinic. That led me to become a dentist. There were just so many patients that someone had to step in.”
As a young, freshly-specialized animal dentist, Jens traveled from clinic to clinic, helping with minor surgeries and conducting treatments. His biggest problems with handling the dental cases in animals was travelling with specialized dental equipment and anesthesia monitoring in the veterinary clinics. This is why after a few years of being a pet dentist ‘on the run’ he opened his own practice.
“Nobody has ever done this in Denmark, opening a specialized practice for animals,” Jens said. “People would tell me, 'This sounds really nice, Jens, but you cannot make a living just from doing that.' But I did and I still do now. The clinic has been running for almost nine years and the number of patients keeps growing.”
TandDyreklinikken combines the latest dental equipment with great conditions for patients and excellent service for customers, the patients' owners. The high quality of service at the clinic reflects Jens’ competence and ambitions.
We all deserve the best care
“We are using the most advanced technology, nothing different from a normal dental practice for humans,” Jens explained. “I really need to be able to decrease my failure rate. After an unsuccessful treatment on a human, the patient would just come and tell me that something hurts; but with animals it's a completely different story.”
Veterinary dental units have significantly improved over the last years, yet there is still no comparison between what's available for animal and for human treatments. “If you have a clinic and you do dentistry once a month, standard equipment is sufficient ,” Jens explained. “But we, of course, need more advanced and reliable solutions, as dentistry is what we do every day.
Because of the great technical service and quality of XO’s products, I have never had a day when I could not work. This is rarely the case with other products.”
Becoming a specialist
At the moment Jens is one of 25 dental specialists in Europe who have been certified by the European Veterinary Dental College (EVDC). Becoming a specialist is not easy and requires serious dedication and professionalism. Yet, according to Jens, “There is a huge need for more specialists, simply because there are so many cases to handle.”
To help other vets understand the importance of good dental treatment Jens spends around 45 days a year running trainings and giving lectures that deal with topics ranging from preventive dentistry and endodontics to specialized cases like orthodontics, tumor surgeries, jaw fractures and implantology.
The tooth of the tiger
One of the most impressive and exciting aspects of Jens’s work is treatment of exotic animals. In 2001, when Jens was still driving from clinic to clinic as the specialist on the road, a local zoo asked him to help them with an operation on one of their big cats that was suffering from a tooth fracture. Since then treatment of exotic patients has become a regular part of his practice. On Jens' vast patient list you can find lions, tigers, leopards, monkeys and Tasmanian devils.
When asked if contact with big animals is a thrill, Jens laughs and tells us that it is not very different from his normal, day-to-day treatments. Yet there is one huge bonus: being able to touch these animals. “Lion fur is quite harsh and coarse, yet tigers or leopards—soft as silk!” he said. “And recently we gave a gold crown to a leopard. That is one of my favorite projects. Just imagine a wild cat glinting a gold tooth at you!”
With the exotic animals, Jens always works for free. For him the most important aspect of these treatments is the knowledge that he gains and is able to share. Together with other specialized doctors, he is working to establish a professional knowledge group that can improve the procedures for wildlife treatment.
Good care starts at home
An important part of Jens’ work is communication with pet owners through his Facebook page and website. He is very keen to share his knowledge and to provide tips and tricks in order to improve the everyday life of his patients. This unique opportunity for the owners, to learn more about taking good care of their pets, actually starts during the first clinic visit. Owners can always be present for treatment, can ask questions and can find out, step by step, everything that Jens does. This helps them be confident in the care and also understand their animal.
When asked about his future plans, Jens tells us, “We have so many animal dental cases, and I am still the only specialized dental vet in Scandinavia. It has been like this for the last 11 years. There should be more of us, because we need to increase the overall knowledge in the field. This you can call my dream for the future.”