22, No. 18, April 17, 2003
by Bill Wiegand
Vitoux is a
veterinary dental technician at the UI Small Animal
of the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians, and
a mentor and tutor in the veterinary technician program
at Parkland College.
I was a child, I’ve wanted to work with animals," says Jeanne
Vitoux, a veterinary dental technician at the UI Small Animal Clinic.
Vitoux not only works with animals, she also mentors and tutors students
in the veterinary technician program at Parkland College, where she
earned her associate in applied science degree in veterinary technology
in 1991. As president of the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians,
Vitoux helped develop a certification program in the dentistry specialty.
Vitoux, who joined the university in January 2002, also earned a bachelor’s
degree in German from Drew University.
Tell me about your department and your job.
The veterinary dental and oral surgery service is one of five full-service
dental labs and teaching research programs in the country with a board-certified
dentist on staff and a dental resident. Veterinarians will refer cases
here because we have the equipment to do procedures they are unable
The service is housed within the surgery department because we have
to put the animals under anesthesia for routine dental cleanings, endodontics
(root canals, crowns), and surgical treatment of oral lesions and cancerous
I manage the lab, which entails ordering supplies and equipment and
repairing the equipment. I help set up the teaching labs and teach the
students dental radiography and dental instrumentation.
Tell me about the vet tech dentistry program
you are helping develop.
It’s a board certification program through the National Association
of Veterinary Technicians of America called the Academy of Veterinary
It is a two-year program modeled after the veterinary dental residency
program. Candidates will have to gather case logs, write case reports,
take a set of full-mouth radiographs, attain continuing education credits
in certain subjects and take a three-part exam, which will include demonstrating
proficiency at certain dental procedures. We hope to make the program
available this summer.
What do you find most rewarding or enjoyable
about what you do?
I enjoy working with my patients and interacting with clients. You’re
not only treating the animal, you’re also making decisions with
the client and being a resource for them. I enjoy teaching skills to
students and veterinarians and watching them grow. I’m a big believer
in lifelong learning because it helps alleviate burnout. Like other
medical professions, this is a field where burnout is high. I could
probably do this 24 hours a day, but I’m also married with two
tabby cats and trying to maintain a house.
Why is burnout so high and how do you combat
It’s a physically demanding job. You’re picking up animals,
restraining them and helping with surgical procedures. Three years ago
I ruptured a disk in my back catching a Labrador retriever that leapt
off the table after it came out of anesthesia, so I’ve become
very conscious of the physical nature of this job and how easy it is
to get injured.
I do aerobic exercise and resistance training three times a week, and
that’s helped immensely with my energy level and with stress relief.
I also garden, and I like to cook Italian and Mediterranean-style dishes.
I also stay involved professionally and am secretary and state representative
in the Veterinary Technician Association of Illinois. I constantly try
to increase my knowledge by reading journals and attending continuing
How important is dental care for pets?
A large percentage of dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease
from plaque and tartar buildup. Untreated, it can cause systemic problems,
especially in the lungs, heart and kidneys, and cause the teeth to fall
out. Animals don’t show pain like people do, so the pet may have
a chronic festering situation for years and then suddenly get sick.
Owners can combat these problems by applying rinses or pastes to their
pets’ mouths, brushing their teeth and offering food, toys and
treats that reduce tartar and plaque. (These activities) decrease the
amount of time the animal has to spend under anesthesia getting their
teeth cleaned or repaired.
On the job: Jeanne Vitoux
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org