Ask the Veterinary Services Expert – Megan Herman
Once oral disease is present, the best way to have it reversed or eliminated is to have a dental procedure performed on your pet. This begins with a thorough physical examination and often bloodwork to ensure that the patient is safe to undergo anesthetic. Once this step has been performed the patient is sedated followed by general anesthetic. A common question we are asked is why animals must be placed under general anesthetic for the procedure. This is the only way we are able to protect their airway from the tarter pieces and water used for the cleaning and prevent pneumonia. It also is the only way we are able to visualize all surfaces of the tooth, perform dental radiographs, and perform any extractions or other treatments required. It allows for a thorough examination, proper treatment and is much safer for the patient. During anesthetic the patient will be maintained on IV fluids and monitored for many parameters to ensure they are tolerating the anesthetic.
Once anesthetized a complete examination of the mouth is performed and all aspects are recorded on a dental chart. This will include oral radiographs if necessary. Each individual tooth will receive a dental score (0 indicates no disease, 4 indicates severe disease). We then proceed with ultrasonic scaling to remove all tarter on the teeth and along/under the gum line. At this time any extractions will be performed if necessary. Teeth to be extracted will be “frozen” with a local anesthetic in order to reduce discomfort, especially once the patient is up from general anesthetic. All extraction sites will be sutured closed in order to prevent food from packing into the site and reduce risk of infection. Once all extractions (if necessary) are performed, then the teeth are polished. Polishing is an important aspect of the dental as it smooths the surface of the tooth and reduces the adherence of plaque to the teeth. Pain medication is administered and varies based on the severity of the disease. The patient is monitored throughout the recovery and for the rest of the day before being discharged to go home by the end of the day.
There are many things that can be done at home to reduce the severity of dental disease and the frequency of dental cleanings required. One way, is to brush your pet’s teeth. There are special pet tooth brushes that conform to a pet’s mouth and animal toothpaste comes in animal preferred flavors (chicken, seafood, etc…). Human toothpaste should not be used for animals. Other options include dental treats and dental diets which help reduce plaque but are not as effective as brushing. Dental diets function by having a large kibble that the pet must chew and are also formulated to help scrub the plaque away.
Regardless of the stage of dental disease that your pet has, there are many ways that we can help treat the disease, or prevent disease from occurring. Come in and visit us with any questions that you have regarding dental disease and we can make a plan for your pets oral health.