The Importance of Dental Care for Your Pet
As with people, dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health. Bad breath can be caused by plaque buildup, gingivitis or other serious dental disease. Sometimes bad breath can be a sign of other problems that are not directly related to dental problems, like liver or kidney disease.
Regularly looking in your pet’s mouth is an important routine to get into so that you can spot a problem early and have it corrected before it becomes serious. Keeping track of any changes you see in how your pet eats or drinks as well as signs of oral pain or drooling can be helpful in finding dental disease.
Preliminary Oral Exam
First you'll have a discussion with our veterinarian about any potential issues you have seen at home. Sometimes what you see at home isn’t always evident once you're in our office when your pet is excited or nervous or if your pet resists an oral exam.
Remember, dental disease can begin below the gum line where it can’t easily be seen. By the time a problem becomes evident it may have been going on for a while.
Initial Tooth Examination
To the extent allowed by your pet, we will then conduct a preliminary oral exam. We want to note the condition of the gums, extent of plaque and tartar buildup, and evidence of gingivitis.
A thorough assessment, however, is not possible until the scheduled dental cleaning when your pet is anesthetized.
Evaluation for Anesthesia
Depending on your pet’s age or previous problems, blood work is sometimes done a few days before the dental cleaning to be sure your pet can handle the anesthetic.
If there are any issues with the blood work we can potentially make changes to our anesthetic protocol or postpone the procedure to correct the issue first.
Our Dental Cleaning Procedure
Here at Eastside, there are always two people in the room as dentals are being done.
As one person cleans teeth or deals with problems with the teeth, the other monitors and adjusts anesthesia as needed.
Cleaning & polishing
The first step once anesthesia has been started and all the monitors are hooked up is to clean your pet’s teeth. This is done with an ultrasonic dental cleaning instrument similar to what is used on people. We use a piezo dental scaler; this is a newer technology than the magnetostrictive scalers that have been in use for years.
All types of ultrasonic scalers leave microscopic etching on the tooth surface that can cause tartar to build up faster, so all teeth are polished after they are cleaned. The idea is to polish out the microscopic etching to make the tooth as smooth as possible to slow future tartar build up.
Repair / treatment
Then each tooth is checked for signs of infection, cracks, wear, gum recession and looseness. Any tooth that is infected, has a lot of root exposed, or is loose or sufficiently damaged is usually extracted.
The mouth is then rinsed with an antiseptic wash and, if needed, an antibiotic gel is packed into deeper tooth root pockets and tooth root sockets that may have been infected. Larger holes left when a tooth is removed are sutured with an absorbable suture if needed.
Pain medications are given and then the animal is recovered from anesthesia. Sometimes antibiotics and more pain medications are sent home to help make recovery at home easier.
Most animals are back to normal in 24 hours or less. Like all of us, some bounce back quicker than others.
Don't Forget Home Care
Home care after a dental cleaning varies depending on the owner and the animal.
There are many products available to help reduce future tartar buildup but the best is still regular brushing with toothpaste made for animals.