Did you know that 7 out of 10 pets over the age of 3 have significant dental disease? Did you know that with routine dental care, many of these could be prevented? We all know that regular visits to our dentists are important. Our pets can experience the same problems with tooth decay, gingivitis, bad breath, periodontal disease and resulting pain that we can experience. Proper preventative care (toothbrushing, chews and diet) and regular cleanings can prevent many of these conditions and keep your pet’s mouth healthy for their whole life.
Dental Care at Como Park Animal Hospital
We believe oral health is important, so an oral exam and dental score (a rating of the level of dental disease on a scale of 0 = none to 4 = severe) is a standard part of physical exams for all patients.
When appropriate, we advise a “dental” – a full assessment and cleaning under general anesthesia. This includes clearing all notable plaque and tartar off all surfaces of the teeth (including under the gums), probing and measuring the space around and between the teeth, taking full mouth digital radiographs (above and below the gums), dental extractions if needed, and polishing the teeth.
The Importance Of Regular Dental Care
Pets like cats, dogs and ferrets can suffer from tooth decay, issues with their gums, and oral infections. To give you an idea how serious proper dental care for your pet is, it’s important to note that harmful bacteria can actually enter oral lesions in your pet’s mouth and enter their blood stream, leading to infections in the heart, kidneys and joints. And the plaque that builds up in their mouths is the same plaque that builds up in blood vessels, making pets more susceptible to cardiovascular disease.
Rabbits and rodents have teeth that continue to grow throughout their life, and require monitoring and sometimes grinding or trimming to make sure they work correctly for chewing food and do not injure the tongue, cheek or hard palate of the mouth. Teeth are checked as a part of routine preventative care exams.
Signs Of Oral And Dental Diseases
One of the first things pet owners notice is halitosis (bad breath). Don’t dismiss this off hand as simply being normal “dog breath”. Halitosis is a byproduct of oral bacteria, and could also be the smell of rotting teeth.
A thorough oral exam can only be performed on an animal that is sedated or under anesthesia, as they generally don’t care for us putting our hands all the way inside their mouths. However, we can look at the outside of the teeth, the gums and the tongue for obvious signs of oral disease – like plaque or tartar build up, staining of teeth, broken teeth, gingivitis, lesions or abscesses (infections of the tooth/gums). A veterinarian and/or experienced veterinary technician can identify signs of oral disease, and advise you if your pet needs to have their teeth cleaned, radiographed to explore the extend of disease/damage and/or extractions. Brushing alone is great for holding off these signs, but often cannot reverse them once they are present.
In rabbits and rodents, overgrowth or improper growth of teeth is much more common than infection, as the teeth continue to grow. Overgrowth is often found because animals stop eating or begin drooling excessively. If you notice a decrease in your pets appetite or stool production, call us to set up an oral exam.
“I have been coming to CPAH for many years. The vet techs are so pleasant and helpful. They are always very knowledgeable when you have to ask a question or aren’t sure if your pet needs to be seen. Thanks for all you do for us and our pets.”
How to Get Ready for a Dental Procedure
Dental procedures (except in the case of an emergency) should be scheduled in advance, as they require a block of time on a surgery/anesthetic procedures day. A pre-anesthesia workup, including an exam and labwork, is required prior to the day of the dental cleaning. We want to ensure your pet is healthy enough for general anesthesia. Labwork should be done no more than 30 days prior and no less than 1 day prior. Our caring staff would be happy to help you figure out the right timing for all of this for your pet.
What to Expect on the Day of a Dental Procedure
Even if you’ve had your pet’s teeth cleaned or trimmed before, you may not know exactly what went on that day. Your pet’s dental procedure has been planned for ahead of time. We ran labwork, maybe did some x-rays to evaluate their readiness for anesthesia. The veterinarian looked in their mouth and told you that what they saw meant the teeth needed to be cleaned. You scheduled a day to bring them in and leave them in our care. Hopefully you set up a intake appointment to go over consent forms and treatments plans at the beginning of the day.
- Pets are admitted for a dental procedure the morning of (or if you need, the evening before, with any appointment). We set aside 10-15 minutes just for a member of the surgical team to sit down with you to make sure you understand the procedure(s) recommended, go over consent forms and waivers, go over the intended treatment plan and cost, and answer any other questions you may have.
- After you leave, your pet is brought to our treatment area where he/she is weighed, his/her temperature is taken, and the doctor does a pre-anesthesia exam and review of his/her history to be sure he/she is ready for anesthesia today. An IV catheter is placed so that medications and fluids can be safely administered as needed throughout the day. Sometimes a sedative is given if the doctor feels it will make their wait more comfortable.
- A team will be with your pet through the anesthesia and dental procedure. Your pet’s veterinarian oversees the procedure and performs any extractions or oral surgery required, and assesses all the dental radiographs. A certified veterinary technician administers anesthesia, cleans and polishes the teeth and takes mouth radiographs. An additional veterinary technician or highly trained technician assistant monitors your pet’s vitals and reports to the veterinarian and veterinary technician throughout the procedure to ensure your pet’s safety. This team will remain with your pet until he/she is recovered from anesthesia.
- When everyone is ready to begin, an anesthetic is administered, your pet is gently laid on a special heated table (which helps maintain his/her body temperature during surgery, keeping him/her safe). An endotracheal tube is placed to preserve your pet’s airway and minimize the risk of aspirating saliva, water or regurgitated stomach contents during the procedure. Your pet’s anesthesia is maintained with an inhaled anesthetic through that tube. Specialized monitoring equipment is put in place to monitor your pet’s heartbeat, temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, oxygen and CO2 saturation levels; these are monitored and recorded throughout the procedure. A special electrolyte fluid solution is administered through the IV catheter to replace fluids lost during anesthesia, increase the bodies ability to secrete waste anesthesia after the procedure, and reduce the risk of dehydration.
- The teeth are scaled (plaque and tartar are removed) with ultrasonic and hand scaling tools, both above and below the gumline. All sides of the teeth are cleaned. Radiographs are taken of the whole mouth to assess the full health of the teeth, roots, jaw and gums. The areas around the teeth are probed to assess gum attachment and swelling. The veterinarian assesses any teeth or areas of particular concern more closely. If dental extractions are required, the veterinarian surgically extracts each tooth, and then repeat radiographs are taken of the socket to ensure no part of the tooth is left in the gum. Finally remaining teeth are polished to reduce bacteria gathering divets or grooves.
- Your pet is taken off anesthesia and placed in a warm soft bed in a protected area while he/she wakes up from the anesthesia. A veterinary technician remains with him/her until the endotracheal tube can safely be removed and he/she can breath and swallow reliably on his/her own. He/she will remain in a safe warm place until he/she is discharged to you later in the day. Meanwhile the veterinarian will contact you relay what was found and done during the procedure and make a plan for your pet to be discharged to go home.
- Then the veterinary technician and the veterinarian make detailed records of the procedure in the medical record. Discharge instructions and medications are made for your specific pet’s procedure and post surgical needs to go over at discharge later in the day.
We will call or email you in the days following the dental procedure to see how your pet is recovering and healing at home, make sure any questions are answered, and set up a follow up check. Often if the pet is doing well, this check will be to inspect the teeth and gums, ensure surgical extraction sites are healing well and go over continuing home dental care.
Need to Schedule a Dental Procedure or Exam?
Call Us Today! If you want to schedule an appointment for an oral assessment or a dental cleaning for your pet or have questions about the procedure, call us at (651) 487-3255
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