What would happen if we never brushed our teeth? Yuck! We would have a mouth full of dental disease. Red, irritated and painful gums, abscesses in the mouth and the early stages of problems with our liver, kidneys and heart. Dental disease has very negative consequences for the health of our pets if it goes untreated and unchecked.
Obviously pets don’t pick up a toothbrush and start brushing their own teeth. We highly recommend dental home care, begun at an early age. In the absence of early dental care it is not uncommon for veterinarians to see patients with extensive dental problems on routine exams.
Often it is necessary to perform a complete dental cleaning and evaluation of the teeth and oral structures to get started on the road to good dental health. After this initial cleaning, dental home care can be started to reduce the severity of dental disease in the future.
Dental home care is not intended to eliminate the need for further dental cleanings, however good home care can greatly reduce the cost of future cleanings and even enhance the interval between cleanings. Most pets over the age of three years will need routine dental cleanings. Some breeds are predisposed to early and more severe dental problems. These include but are not limited to, toy breeds, brachycephalic breeds (pugs and bulldogs) and cats with shorter noses such as Persians.
Dental procedures in dogs and cats require general anesthesia. Prior to any anesthesia on your pet, the following procedures will need to be performed on the day of the dental:
Before the Procedure
- Complete physical exam: Includes but is not limited to listening to the heart and lungs, as well as a general health assessment.
- Laboratory blood screen: More extensive lab work is needed for the geriatric patient, younger patients will have liver and kidney values assessed for normal function and a red blood cell count performed. Prior lab work can be used as an assessment of body organ function if it has been performed within the previous 4 weeks.
- IV catheterization: This is our portal for both fluids and emergency drugs if needed and is required for the safety of the patient.
- Antibiotics will be administered to counteract any bacteria dislodged in the cleaning process.
During the Dental Procedure
Our primary concern is the safety of your pet. Anesthesia is carefully monitored with both a pulse oximeter and a doppler blood pressure machine. Gas anesthesia is used to maintain your pet at an appropriate level of sedation. The patient is always under the watchful eye of either a veterinarian or veterinary technician. Warmth is provided during and after the procedure and appropriate pain medication is given to ensure comfort.
Different animals require different procedures. The best evaluation of the mouth is done when the pet is under anesthesia. During this time a dental probe is used to determine if there are pockets of decay around the teeth. Teeth that are abscessed cause severe pain and will need to be removed. Extractions are done by the veterinarian. Defects left after extractions will be sutured with absorbable suture. Once extractions are completed, an ultrasonic cleaning and dental exam is performed. Tartar and plaque are removed and the teeth are polished to a sparkling shine. The veterinarian will check carefully for any abnormalities in the oral cavity, on the teeth, lips and gums, and report their findings to you.
After the Procedure
After the dental procedure the patient is monitored carefully while waking up from anesthesia. Pain medication is used as needed to ensure comfort. Dental patients are generally discharged on the same day. Pain medication and antibiotics are common take home medications for dental patients and will be explained to you at the time of discharge.
When you pick up your pet they will probably still be slightly drowsy. A technician or veterinarian will explain what to expect and how to care for your pet at home.