Did you know that 85% of dogs and cats will have some form of periodontal disease by the age of three? That’s a startling statistic! Yet dental disease is a very common finding at your pet’s yearly physical exam. A thorough oral exam can reveal dental tartar and plaque (also called calculus), inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), fractures and cracks in the tooth enamel, abscesses or infections of the tooth root, oral masses or tumors present along the teeth or tongue, and much more. More importantly, dental disease can increase your pet’s risk of developing more serious health problems, including heart disease and kidney disease.
When your pet has dental problems, you might notice the following common symptoms: lack of appetite, excessive bleeding from the gums when eating food or chewing on toys, sneezing excessively, bad breath (halitosis), and pawing at the face, which indicates discomfort or pain. Some breeds of dog, including Yorkshire terriers, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, and Collies, are predisposed to dental disease.
At Ebenezer, we routinely recommend a dental prophylactic cleaning (abbreviated as a “prophy”) for your pet. This is very similar to the routine dental care that you receive at your family dentist. Dental procedures are performed under anesthesia and are treated like a surgery at our hospital.
Your pet is admitted in the morning after being fasted the night before (water is fine). We then run pre-anesthetic blood work, which checks white and red blood cells and internal organ chemistry values such as kidney, liver, total protein, and electrolytes, to ensure that your pet is a good candidate for surgery.
Following the blood tests, we administer a light sedative to your pet to help them relax prior to the procedure. Then, the doctor administers anesthetic drugs that are carefully selected based on your pet’s body weight, species, age, and breed. An endotracheal tube is placed into your pet’s trachea (or wind pipe) to allow him or her to breathe gas anesthesia carried by oxygen. This keeps them asleep during the entire procedure. During this entire process, your pet is monitored by a highly trained veterinary technician and monitoring equipment that assesses your pet’s heart rate, blood oxygen level, blood pressure, and body temperature.
For pets above the age of eight, we insert an intravenous catheter. A catheter allows your older pet to receive intravenous fluids during the procedure, which maintains adequate hydration, increases blood flow to vital internal organs, helps maintain body temperature, and generally results in a faster and smoother recovery.
While asleep, your pet lies on a comfortable heating pad and is covered with a blanket to keep them warm during the procedure. Your pet’s assigned technician cleans the teeth with a variety of tools similar to those you see at your own dentist. These include an ultrasonic scaling tool that uses high frequency pulses of water and ultrasound waves to break off pieces of tartar and plaque that are adhered to the tooth enamel. After the cleaning, a technician applies a polish to remove lingering stains on the enamel.
Following the cleaning, your pet’s doctor will personally inspect the work performed by the technician. As a result of this inspection, the doctor may recommend several additional procedures. These include:
- Extraction of unsalvageable teeth. Infected teeth, fractured teeth, or teeth with abscesses at the root are generally counterproductive to your pet’s oral health. Your veterinarian will surgically extract these teeth with several tools and techniques.
- Pain control is VERY important to our doctors! We typically use up to three forms of pain control during a tooth extraction to ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible when he or she wakes up. These include local anesthetics, anti-inflammatories, and powerful pain control drugs.
- Pain control continues after your pet goes home! We will always dispense pain control for several days following any extractions during your pet’s dental cleaning.
- Digital dental x-rays may be recommended to help us evaluate if there is disease below the gum line, which we cannot see with our naked eye. These images will be analyzed to assess whether an extraction is necessary.
- A dental sealant called Doxirobe may be applied to the gum line of a tooth that has localized infection and does not require surgical extraction.
- Post-operative antibiotics will be dispensed for your pet if your pet’s doctor performed a surgical extraction, if he or she has severe gum disease, or for other reasons deemed appropriate.
- We may administer localized laser therapy in the mouth to alleviate pain and/or swelling and speed up the healing process.
After the dental cleaning, we remove your pet from gas anesthesia and a technician sits with your pet until he or she wakes up on soft, comfortable bedding. We continue to monitor your pet’s vital signs throughout the morning and afternoon to make sure their recovery is smooth and uneventful. We will always call you shortly after your pet is awake, and your veterinarian will talk to you about the dental procedure and how your pet did under anesthesia when you come in the afternoon or evening to pick him or her up. Your veterinarian also will explain any special instructions about your pet’s after-care. We also encourage you to ask questions!