It is important that preventive dental care start as early as possible for your pet. There are several options that may be recommended to you:
- Using a finger brush with flavored toothpaste daily
- Using an oral rinse with Chlorhexidine on the gumline and teeth daily
- Feeding dry food only
- Offering safe items to chew on such as a Kong product
Dental care plans should be determined by recommendations from your veterinarian, the willingness of your pet, and your capabilities.
The reality is that most of us lead busy lives and don't have the time to brush our pet's teeth, but for their health, their teeth should look clean and white just like ours do. One of the first signs of dental disease is bad breath. If your pet is willing, gently lift his/her lips to view the teeth and gums in order to check for signs of a healthy mouth.
What to look for:
- Are the teeth clean or do they have hardened calculus (tartar) on them?
- Are there any missing or broken teeth?
- Is the gum tissue pink and firm?
Common Signs of Dental Problems
- Bad Odor from mouth
- Chattering of Teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Hesitation to eat
- Failing to groom (cats)
- Eroded, broken or loose teeth
Dental disease is a serious condition because, left untreated, it can contribute to physical health problems, and overall physical decline. Dental disease has been linked to heart disease, kidney disease, problems with the intestinal tract, and joint health problems. It can also be orally painful for your pet. Tartar and inflamed gum tissue sends bacteria through the bloodstream, affecting all parts of the body. It is important to note that because dental disease progresses in stages, further damage to these organ systems can sometimes be prevented, as can tooth loss, with early detection and proper oral care.
Professional Dental Cleaning
When a professional dental cleaning is recommended, doctors first perform a physical exam. We recommend and sometimes require blood work to be run prior to the day of the procedure. (We still can run tests the day of the dental, however sending it out to the lab is the better value providing more information for less expense.) Anesthesia is processed through the liver and the kidneys. Blood work is helpful because it gives an idea of how the major organs are functioning, and also includes a complete blood count that provides valuable information about possible infection, anemia, dehydration etc. An IV catheter and fluids may be recommended during the procedure, depending on the estimated length of the procedure, and the health of your pet. For severe dental disease, antibiotics may be prescribed prior to the procedure.
The Dental Procedure
It’s important to be very careful to follow all “night before guidelines for your pet’s safety. Your pet is not allowed to eat anything after 8pm the night before the procedure, although drinking a bit of water is allowed. Absolutely no food can be given to your pet on the morning of the procedure.
Patients are admitted between 7:30am and 8:30am on the morning of the procedure. The receptionist will confirm the reason for your visit and have you sign a form, listing any requests you may have. You will be asked to provide a contact phone number for that day. A return appointment will be scheduled so that you may talk with the doctor when your pet is released.
Your pet's history is reviewed, as is any pertinent blood work, and a preliminary exam is preformed prior to anesthesia. Your pet will have an individualized plan for anesthesia and for any emergency that may arise.
When your pet is anesthetized, temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate are monitored both manually and with specialized equipment. Critical patients will have more extensive monitoring that includes blood pressure, capnography, pulse oximetry, EKG etc.
For the patient’s comfort, they are placed with towels and blankets and warm water bottles, if needed. IV fluids are also warmed.
The teeth are ultrasonically scaled and polished by a veterinary technician under the supervision of your veterinarian. The mouth is examined by your doctor, who determines problem areas.
Extractions are performed only if the doctor feels that the tooth cannot be saved. Some factors we look for are:
- Root exposure
- Loose teeth
- Broken or fractured teeth
A veterinary technician observes your pet while he or she is waking up from anesthesia. She will then call you to let you know how the procedure went, and let you know that we will continue to observe your pet until your return time.
When you return, your pet will have antibiotics to take for at least 7 days following the dental procedure. If there were extractions, there may also be pain medication prescribed. You will be given written instructions for your pet's care, and your veterinarian will discuss a plan for home dental care with you. Remember that it’s important to always administer the complete prescription to your pet. Please feel free to call with any questions that you may have.