Earlier this month, we discussed the signs and risks of pet periodontal disease. If your cat or dog is diagnosed with periodontal disease, your veterinarian may recommend a dental procedure to clean your pet’s teeth. This post will discuss what a dental cleaning entails and the techniques that Clover Hill Animal Hospital utilizes to provide thorough and professional dental procedures.

Will My Pet Need to Undergo Anesthesia?

In order to provide a complete and thorough cleaning, your pet must be put under general anesthesia. Many pet parents wonder why this step is necessary. After all, humans have their teeth cleaned all the time. With animals, dental cleanings are much more involved. Unlike people who get their teeth cleaned every six months to a year, many pets get their first dental cleaning as late as six years old. That is six years of tartar and plaque buildup. No matter how well behaved a cat or dog may be, it is not possible for them to remain still enough for us to conduct a full and thorough cleaning and assessment. 

Furthermore, according to the American Animal Hospital Association, “Anesthesia-free dentistry is neither safer nor sufficiently comparable to [above and below the gum] cleaning in an anesthetized patient, and is therefore unacceptable.” 

Other reasons for general anesthesia: 

  • Dental X-rays should be taken prior to every dental cleaning and anesthesia is required to keep pets still. Since 60% of a tooth is below the gumline, X-rays are needed to evaluate what cannot be seen with the naked eye. Without X-rays, many dental problems go undiagnosed and untreated.
  • A complete dental cleaning involves evaluation of pocket depth, tartar scaling above and below the gums, and polishing, which can be uncomfortable. Most patients will not hold still for these procedures, which involve poking, prodding, bright lights, and sharp instruments. 
  • Many pets are able to mask painful dental problems. Anesthesia allows your pet to rest pain-free throughout the cleaning, even when painful procedures, such as tooth extractions, are necessary.

Although the idea of your pet being anesthetized can be a scary thought, rest assured that we take every precaution to make your pet safe. During the procedure, your pet will be monitored by at least two surgical veterinary technicians in addition to the doctor. Furthermore, older pets and pets with pre-existing conditions receive preoperative testing to make sure that they will be safe during anesthesia. . 

What Does a Thorough Dental Procedure Entail?

  1. The first step of any dental procedure is dental digital X-rays. As discussed above, dental X-rays are needed to assess the health of the overall mouth both above and below the gum line. The doctor will evaluate the radiographs and determine if something like an extraction is needed. 
  2. Next, your pet’s teeth are cleaned using an ultrasonic scaler to remove tartar stuck onto the tooth’s surface. Every surface of the tooth is cleaned and freed of tartar. The removal of tartar will prevent further tooth decay and freshen breath.
  3. An in-depth exam of your pet’s mouth will be performed. A probe will be used to assess gum recession due to disease as well as furcation, or bone loss. This exam will help the doctor determine which teeth, if any, need to be extracted.
  4. If no extractions are necessary, the next step in the process is polishing. A low speed tool is used to avoid causing any abrasions on the tooth’s surface.
  5. The final step in the process is the application of a product called Oravet. Oravet creates a barrier at the gumline that helps to prevent bacteria from attaching. This product is important because this bacteria is the cause of plaque and tartar.
  6. Once the procedure is over, your pet is monitored while in recovery. Your pet will then be discharged, at which point we will discuss home care and what you can do at home to further protect your pet’s teeth. 

Hopefully, the above information gave you insight into what we do at Clover Hill Animal Hospital during our dental procedures as well as why we do what we do. We take great pride in our dentistry work, and we want our clients to be active participants in their pets’ oral health. While dental cleanings are a vital part of oral care, there are steps pet parents can take at home. The next post will discuss what you can do at home to protect your pet’s mouth.