An important part of keeping your pet’s teeth healthy is having routine dental cleanings. The two main reasons to have your pet’s teeth cleaned are: to help prolong the health of your pet and your pet’s teeth and to allow the veterinarian to perform a complete oral exam.
Step 1: Have your veterinarian examine your pet’s teeth –
By bringing your pet into the office for an examination, you allow for the veterinarian to get a better idea of what to expect prior to the dental cleaning.
This allows the veterinarian to better prepare you for what dental care your pet may need to have done while having their teeth cleaned.
It also gives you the time and attention of the veterinarian to ask questions or voice concerns.
Step 2: Make sure that your pet’s bloodwork is current –
We require that any pet of any age have current bloodwork prior to anesthesia. It must have been completed within a month of the procedure or the morning of the procedure.
This allows the veterinarian to look at important organ functions such as the liver, kidneys and the heart. It also allows them to check for anemia.
Depending on your pet’s age or health, the veterinarian may recommend doing more complete bloodwork that would also look at complete blood count, thyroid level and a urinalysis.
Pets of every age generally handle anesthesia quite well, but, without having the current bloodwork it is hard to tell if a pet has existing problems. Even with some degree of compromise, the pet can still handle anesthesia well, but, they might just need a little more attention prior, during, and after the dental cleaning.
Side Question: Does my pet have to be placed under general anesthesia for a dental cleaning?
YES! It is not recommended to have anesthesia-free dentistry performed on pets. There are two very important reasons why pets must be placed under general anesthesia:
Anesthesia-free dentistry has no way of protecting your pet’s airway and lungs. During a dental procedure, there are a lot of fluid and particles (bacteria-infested) generated. Without proper protection of the airway and lungs these fluids and particles could potential result in pneumonia. We make sure to protect your pet by placing an endotracheal tube (this is a tube that runs from the tip of the mouth down to where the lungs branch off into lubes.)
Unless your pet is completely under anesthesia it is very difficult to clean the teeth and examine the mouth. Pets do not understand what is happening to them and it could be stressful. Once under anesthesia, your pet sleeps through the whole process…stress free. Being under anesthesia allows the veterinarian to look at all aspects of your pet’s mouth, dental x-rays to be taken, and an exam to be completed below the gumline. Oral cancer (the oral cavity is the 4th most common place for cancer) can be extremely difficult to diagnose on an awake pet.
Step 3: The day of your pet’s dental procedure –
It is VERY IMPORTANT the night before to remove food around 8pm and only allow a small amount of water until 6am the morning of the procedure.
You will be scheduled an admit time between 7:30 nd 8am. During your time with the doctor, they will go over a treatment plan for your pet. They will discuss options and address any questions or concerns.
A technician or veterinarian will call or text to let you know that your pet is in recovery and what time your pet will be ready to go home. Your pet will be allowed to go home that same afternoon.
When you come to pick up your pet that afternoon you will be given discharge instructions, a dental booklet thatincludes a copy of bloodwork, before and after pictures, a write-up of the dental procedure, and a copy of x-rays.
Step 4: The actual dental cleaning procedure –
The veterinarian will perform an examination on your pet and make sure you do not have any last minute questions or concerns.
An assistant or technician will shave a small area on your pet’s leg and apply a numbing agent to place an IV catheter.
Based on your pet’s bloodwork results, if there are any pre-existing conditions or a past history of anesthetic problems, the patient’s age and breed, a registered veterinary technician will give your pet the proper pre-medication and develop their individualized anesthetic plan.
A registered veterinary technician or doctor will induce and intubate your pet.
Once your pet is under general anesthesia they are placed on a vital sign monitor and continually monitored by a trained assistant or technician. This allows the veterinarian and the technician to watch the heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, carbon dioxide level, temperature, EKG, and oxygen level. Keeping a close eye on these levels allows for the veterinary team to react faster if the need presents itself. The pet is placed on a warm water circulating blanket as well and covered with a blanket to maintain body temperature. Once your animal is completely under anesthesia we start the dental cleaning.
Take full mouth dental x-rays. Some dental procedures require post-treatment x-rays as well. To decrease the amount of exposure time and anesthetic time, we use a true digital dental x-ray machine that allows the veterinarian to see the x-rays seconds after they are taken on a computer.
Spray the mouth with chlorhexidine – a special enzyme that adheres to the bacteria in the mouth, reducing the amount that can become airborne during a dental cleaning.
Removal of mass calculus (the brownish-yellow crusty stuff that you can see on the tooth). A special dental tool allows for us to safely remove a large part of the calculus.
Scaling the teeth with an ultrasonic cleaner.
With the aid of an ultrasonic cleaner we are able to use ultrasonic waves at a high frequency to remove the more stuck-on calculus and tartar.
We scale both above and below the gumline. Scaling below the gumline allows for us to remove hidden disease-causing bacteria.
Scaling, depending of the degree of calculus, takes the majority of time, BUT is the most important step in the dental procedure.
After all the calculus and tartar is removed, we stain the teeth with a special stain that adheres to ANY left behind calculus and/or tartar.
Even if the teeth seem clean to the naked eye, we want to take an extra step and make sure that all the calculus and tartar are gone.
This stain is completely harmless to both cats and dogs. The only issue is that due to the bright pink color, it may temporarily dye the fur around the mouth and/or face. It WILL wash out or wear out over time.
Polishing the teeth. It is very important that after scaling the teeth that they are polished. Scaling the teeth roughens the surface of the teeth which would allow for more plaque to attach to the teeth. But polishing smooths the surface and reduces the ability of plaque to attach.
Rinsing and air-blowing the mouth allows for any left behind debris to be removed.
The last step is the dental charting and oral exam.
The oral exam allows for the veterinarian to look at all aspects of the mouth. If, at this time they see anything that may be of concern, they can contact you to discuss treatment options or go ahead with treatment based on your permission.
Charting what is seen in the mouth and the condition of the teeth, allow for a vital reference in the case that changes in the mouth occur overtime.
As an extra step we also apply Oravet after their dental cleaning. Oravet is a sealant that prevents plaque from attaching to the teeth for up to a week after application.
Once your pet has his 2-week dental recheck appointment, you can start home care.
Once the cleaning and other treatments are completed, the patient is recovered by a trained veterinary assistant or technician in a recovery cage. We use heat discs inside the cages and several blankets to help keep your pet warm. Because we use such a safe anesthetic protocol, most pets wake up in a matter of minutes from being removed from the gas anesthetic.
We strive to do our very best to keep your pets healthy and strongly believe that keeping your pet’s teeth healthy is a vital key in keeping your pet healthy. Routine dental cleaning and at-home care combined together can greater enhance and prolong your pet’s health.