Dental disease continues to be one of the most common and widespread threats to pet health and quality of life among pets who are otherwise properly protected from contagious diseases and parasites.
There are several reasons why clean teeth are important to our pets:
• Your pet’s mouth harbors bacteria which can make him sick.
• These bacteria can cause infections in the mouth and in vital organs including the heart,liver and kidneys.
• Infections can also result in gingivitis, tooth loss and pain.
• Diseased teeth and gums cause pain for pets.
Prevention is the key to proper oral care! Plaque forms from food, saliva and bacteria as a soft coating on the teeth. Plaque can only be brushed off the teeth before it hardens into tartar (within 24 hours). Daily tooth brushing can slow tartar buildup. Unfortunately, some pets make daily brushing difficult to impossible! For those pets we can use VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) approved dental diets, water additives, chews or sealants to slow down the relentless process of tartar formation and gingivitis.
No matter how great a job you do at caring for your pet’s teeth, most pets will need a teeth cleaning (dental prophylaxis) periodically throughout their lives. Imagine how your teeth would look or feel if you didn’t brush them or go to the dentist for cleanings at regular intervals!
All cats and dogs undergoing anesthesia for dental treatment are first screened with blood tests to make sure they have healthy internal organs for processing anesthetics and to discover conditions which might affect the surgical procedure itself. The veterinarian performs a pre-surgical exam of your pet the morning of surgery prior to administering any anesthetics or pain medications. Your pet next has his blood pressure checked by the nurses. After sedation, the nurses then place an intravenous catheter, usually in a front leg, to serve as a portal for fluids plus anesthetic and emergency drugs. Pets are placed on IV fluids to support their blood pressure, help their organs process the drugs and keep them hydrated. The next step is to give IV anesthetic drugs to relax your pet to enable passage of a tube in his windpipe for delivery of anesthetic gas and oxygen. He will then have monitors attached to track his blood levels of oxygen and his heart rate and rhythm. Most importantly, though, your pet will be closely observed by a licensed veterinary nurse to be sure his anesthesia is delivered in the safest possible way.
We start the dental procedure once your pet is anesthetized and connected to the monitors. We are then able to perform a thorough exam of your pet’s mouth (impossible without anesthesia). We first examine the cheeks, tongue, lips, throat and gums for any abnormal growths, ulcers or inflammations. We then probe the gums around each tooth for pockets, gum recession, bleeding (gingivitis), and purulent discharge (pus). We also probe the mouth for loose teeth, root damage, cavities, missing or discolored teeth, enamel problems, over crowding, and worn or broken teeth. As we probe, everything we find is documented on your pet’s dental chart. These charts are critical for monitoring the progress of your pet’s dental health over his or her entire life span.
The doctor will determine whether extractions are needed and perform the necessary extractions. We will not remove healthy teeth; teeth are only removed when they are diseased and endangering the health of neighboring teeth or the surrounding jaw. Depending on the tooth and the difficulty of the extraction, nerve blocks may be performed and gingival flaps and sutures may be required to aid in healing and pain management. Dental x-rays are performed at the doctor’s discretion to help determine whether a tooth needs to be extracted. After a tooth is extracted, x-rays can also help verify that the entire root has been removed.
We start the actual dental cleaning by carefully scraping off large pieces of tarter using instruments, then applying an ultrasonic cleaner to all tooth surfaces. We also use a variety of hand tools to get in all the nooks, crannies and crevices of each tooth to clean them thoroughly. We then polish all tooth surfaces to get rid of any rough surfaces on the enamel of each tooth. We next swab your pet’s mouth with a rinsing agent to kill germs and remove debris from his mouth. We can apply a barrier sealant such as Oravet as the last step to aid in slowing down future plaque and tartar buildup.
The doctor will call you with an update after completion of your pet’s dental treatment. The nurses will continue to monitor your pet throughout the day and be responsible for ensuring that you understand all aftercare and medications when they send him home at his discharge appointment. We encourage you to make sure we answer all of your questions and concerns about your pet’s anesthesia and procedure.
Even the regular use of dental diets, chews, sealants and dental treats does not eliminate the need of a periodic dental prophylaxis. Your pet’s doctor will help you provide the best care for your pet’s dental health and plan an approach suited to your special needs and those of your pet.
We schedule dental procedures for Mondays and Thursdays. Your pet will be admitted to the hospital the morning of surgery between 8:15am and 9:00am or, for your convenience, you can bring him in on Wednesday before 5pm for a Thursday surgery at no extra charge. Discharge times vary according to the procedure. Your pet will be discharged during appointment with the nurse. Should your pet have a problem requiring a surgical specialist, we will refer you to a Board Certified dentist in our area.
Please explore the following links for more information about anesthesia and dentistry:
Demystifying general anesthesia
Feline Dental Disease