February is Dental Month

It’s that time of year again! Receive a 15% discount when you schedule your pet’s dental cleaning during the month of February.

Why is it important to have my pet’s teeth cleaned?

In veterinary dentistry our main concern is the health and comfort of our patients. Studies in dogs have shown a correlation between periodontal (gum) disease and internal organ dysfunction. Periodontal disease can have significant negative health consequences in dogs and cats. In the early stages of periodontal disease, teeth cleaning and subsequent care at home may be all that is needed. In late stage periodontal disease, extraction of diseased teeth may be the best option. It is important not to ignore fractured teeth as these will invariably abscess and cause discomfort. Treatment of fractured teeth involves either root canal therapy or extraction.

In human dentistry, existing problems can be easily diagnosed with the patient awake. Thorough exams and x-rays are performed prior to performing any procedures. In veterinary dentistry a thorough exam including dental x-rays cannot be accomplished until the patient is under anesthesia. So, the dental cleaning (prophylaxis) is both a diagnostic and treatment modality in dogs and cats.

There are those who advocate teeth cleaning in dogs and cats without the benefit of general anesthesia. Dr. Greg Dupont, a local board certified veterinary dentist and past president of the American College of Veterinary Dentistry, describes this as “no more than tooth grooming with no appreciable health benefit to the patient.” Also, anesthesia allows an endotracheal tube to be placed to prevent inhalation of particles dislodged during scaling.

What happens when my pet has a dental procedure?

Since dental procedures in dogs and cats are performed under general anesthesia, you will have the option of a preanesthetic blood test. In pets ten years of age or older the preanesthetic blood test is standard. The next step is the administration of a preanesthetic medication to relax the patient. After this an IV catheter is placed and an injection is given to induce anesthesia. An endotracheal tube is then placed in the windpipe to assist breathing and administer gas (isoflourane) anesthesia. IV fluids are started and in many cases an intravenous antibiotic may be given. Anesthesia is monitored carefully during the entire procedure. Pulse oximeters to measure oxygen saturation, and dopplers to assess blood pressure, are utilized in this regard.

The first step in the dental cleaning is to remove large gross calculus or tartar if present with a forcep. Calculus or tartar is mineralized plaque. Plaque is that sticky film which adheres to your teeth consisting of saliva, food particles, and bacteria. In the final analysis it is plaque that causes periodontal disease. After gross calculus is removed, the remaining calculus and plaque is removed using both a high speed ultrasonic scaler and hand scalers as needed. The most important area to address for your pet’s health is under the gum line. This is the primary reason that dental cleanings in dogs and cats are performed with sedation.

After the teeth have been cleaned the mouth is thoroughly examined. In rare cases oral tumors are discovered during routine dental cleanings. The teeth are evaluated for fractures, malocclusions, and periodontal pockets. Deep pockets around the teeth indicate significant periodontal disease. Dental radiographs using our Schick digital dental x-ray equipment are taken as needed. Sometimes an x-ray will be taken just to evaluate how much bone is being lost around the teeth due to periodontal disease. Generally speaking, problems discovered are addressed with the owner’s consent at the time of the dental cleaning. This avoids the expense of additional anesthetic procedures.

Finally, the teeth are polished to smooth the tooth surface and a dental sealant is applied. The purpose of this is to slow the rate of plaque and calculus accumulation in the future. In dogs we dispense Oravet Sealant Gel to be applied weekly at home. This sealant alone will reduce plaque accumulation by 40%! When your pet is discharged in the late afternoon further instructions will be given regarding strategies to prevent disease recurrence. These may include brushing, special diets,  dentifrices, specially formulated chews, and others. If extractions or oral surgery have been performed we will dispense an analgesic (pain) medication to make your pet comfortable during the healing process. Additionally, oral antibiotics may be prescribed for a week or so.

To set up an appointment for a dental cleaning please call our office. If we have not examined your dog or cat within the last six months a brief predental exam may be recommended. At this visit any appropriate preanesthetic tests can be performed as well as an approximate estimate of what will be done during the procedure. We are looking forward to hearing from you regarding this important health issue for your dog or cat.