Veterinary Oral Health Council

VOHC Digital Scoring Project

Prepared by VOHC Director Colin Harvey

The plaque and calculus scoring systems currently used in VOHC trials in dogs and cats are subjective and categorical in nature. VOHC sponsored open sessions on Scoring Methodology at the 2015 and 2016 American and European Veterinary Dental Forums. Copies of the Powerpoint files used in the 2016 presentations are available via the links below. They include some background information on scoring in VOHC trials and brief histories of digital scoring techniques.

Presentation at the Dublin Forum, 2016

Presentation at the Minneapolis Forum, 2016.

A follow-up VOHC Scoring presentation is scheduled for the May 2017 European Forum in Malaga.

This web page summarizes the collaborative VOHC Digital Scoring Project to date, and provides links to related resources.

Discussion among participants at these Forum sessions resulted in recognition of the shortcomings of current scoring methods, particularly given the irregular shapes and wide range in sizes of canine and feline teeth. There was agreement at the Minneapolis Forum that recent work on digital scoring of plaque in dogs and cats conducted at the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition, UK (hereafter 'Waltham'), provided a model for scoring for VOHC trials that was worth investigating.

The method used at Waltham is based on the Quantitative Light-induced Fluorescence (QLF) equipment and technology developed by Inspektor Research Systems, The Netherlands. The Inspektor website includes a comprehensive set of resources, including a downloadable White Paper on QLF and an extensive list of Literature available as links from the webpage.

Individuals, companies and organizations known to Colin Harvey as being potentially interested in development of an objective veterinary dental scoring system for VOHC purposes were invited to be part of a collaborative project to further investigate the QLF system. The participant list now includes 88 individuals. If you are not a member of this group and are interested in this topic, you are welcome to join - send an email note to, brifely describing your background and reason for interest in this topic. Individuals are welcome to participate anonymously (group email messages will be sent to you as bcc:). As part of this outreach effort, interested individuals were asked whether they were aware of alternative objective plaque and calculus scoring methodologies in use or in development; none have been mentioned to date.

As a result of the research conducted at Waltham, Waltham has applied for a patent on certain aspects of digital scoring of dental plaque in dogs and cats. Click Patent to download a copy of the patent application. Given their agreement to participate in this project, I am in discussion with Corrin Wallis and colleagues at Waltham with respect to drafting a legal agreement that will permit VOHC to make use of aspects of work done at Waltham relating to the patent that Waltham has applied for.

In 2016, Dr. Wallis and colleagues at Waltham published their work on scoring plaque in dogs using the QLF technology. Click QLF Plaque Scoring in Dogs to download a copy of the published paper. Also in 2016, Dr. Wallis presented resuts of a study of use of QLF technology in cats; see slides 14-20 in the Minneapolis presentation file for details.

Another research group has investigated computer modeling in scoring of dental plaque in canine teeth. Click Plaque Computer Modeling to download the paper in the 2015 IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics.

To date, Waltham has concentrated on using QLF to score the extent of plaque coverage, and has conducted some preliminary work on extent of calculus. Ideally, a digital scoring system would be a combination of extent and thickness of plaque or calculus, as is used in some of the subjective scoring systems that have been used in trials included in VOHC submissions. I have contacted Inspektor Research Systems to determine their interest in participating in this collaborative project, and requested an estimate of the cost of development of a combination extent and thickness software scoring program for use in dogs and cats.

Inspektor has indicated interest in participating. Click Inspektor Request for a decription of the steps I have proposed to Inspektor and the response from Inspektor - comments and alternative possibilities are welcome. Once an estimate of cost is available, this VOHC Scoring Project group will be contacted to investigate options for raising funds to cover the cost. The AVDC Board has agreed to include funds in the VOHC budget for 2017 as a start-up resource for any required funding.

May 2017: Detailed report of the presentations and discussion duirng the VOHC Digitial Scoring session at the European Veterinary Dental Forum meeting in Malaga, and of discussions during Colin Harvey's subsequent visit to Waltham. Click May 2017 Meetings. An electronic meeting of Harvey, Waltham staff and Inspektor staff will be held later in 2017.

Additional Resources:

Using tooth-weighted data to score gingivitis and attachment loss in dogs.

Sub-sets of teeth of dogs in which scores of gingivitis and attachment loss correlate highly with full-mouth tooth scores.

April 7, 2017 Email Project Update note



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