Why do we recommend anesthetic dental cleanings?
Periodontal disease is prevalent in our pets. If left untreated, it can cause pain and can affect their long-term health. During every physical exam, the veterinarian will do an oral exam. They will evaluate if there is tartar buildup, gingivitis (red gum line), fractured teeth, loose teeth, or any other oral abnormalities. However, our dental exam is limited in our awake patients and we are unable to see what’s happening below the gum line. Therefore, we recommend multiple anesthetic dental cleanings during your pet’s lifetime.
How often should my pet go under anesthesia for a dental cleaning?
We normally start recommending dental cleanings around 4 to 5 years of age, and recommend having it performed every 2 to 3 years. However, every dog and cat is different. Smaller breed dogs and cats, in general, are more predisposed to dental disease and may require more care. We realize this may not be ideal for everyone. But the more frequently your pet has anesthetic cleanings in combination with receiving dental home care, the fewer teeth extractions need to be done in the future.
Is anesthesia risky?
We understand that placing your pet under anesthesia can be scary and stressful. We take every precaution to minimize that small risk of anesthesia. At the time of your pet's physical exam, we recommend pre-anesthetic blood work to ensure your pet has normal organ function before proceeding with the procedure. A designated trained anesthetic technician will be with your pet throughout the process and during recovery, closely monitoring his/her blood pressure, oxygenation and carbon dioxide levels, ECG, heart rate, and temperature. Your pet will also be receiving IV fluids during the procedure to keep their blood pressure stable.
Why does my pet need dental x-rays?
Dental x-rays are an essential step in your pet's anesthetic dental treatment. They assist us in deciding if the teeth are diseased and will need to be removed if root decay is present. We also perform x-rays after each extraction to verify that the tooth was removed in its entirety.
How will the day go? What time do I need to drop off my pet? Why are they there all day?
Please pick up any remaining food before bedtime (around 10pm the night before). Do not feed or offer water the morning of the procedure. If your pet is on daily medications, please ask your veterinarian if they need their morning dose on the day of the procedure. When you drop your pet off at 8:00am, you will meet your dental technician, who will be taking good care of your pet that day.
Here is an approximate timeline of what you can expect:
1. The veterinarian will review your pet's records and perform a complete physical exam prior to determining the best anesthetic plan for your pet. Your veterinarian will call you with any concerns, so please have your phone with you at all times.
2. Before anesthesia, your pet is pre-medicated to ease stress and allow for smoother anesthesia. An IV catheter is placed, typically in one of their front legs (the fur will be shaved).
3. We determine the order of operations based on the anesthetic risks and needs of the patients. Depending on your pet's needs, his/her procedure may begin in the late morning or early afternoon. Please be assured that your pet will be in a comfortable cage with lovely bedding, given pain medications so they can rest, and taken outside for bathroom breaks.
4. After performing dental x-rays, an initial probing, and an examination of your pet's teeth, the veterinarian will call you. We will discuss our findings and recommendations, which may include dental extractions.
5. Once your pet wakes up from anesthesia, we keep them for about 2-3 hours to ensure their pain is well managed. We will also keep them hydrated on IV fluids postoperatively. We will call you to estimate when your pet can go home and go over discharge instructions. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!
What dental care should I do at home?
1. Brushing Teeth
Brushing Teeth - The best way to keep your cat's or dog's mouth healthy between dental cleanings at the hospital is daily tooth brushing. Plaque accumulates and hardens into tartar within 36 hours. Tartar accumulates under the gumline, which leads to gingivitis, and ultimately dental tartar. While one can remove plaque with a toothbrush, tartar requires scaling. If you brush your animal's teeth once daily, this will minimize tartar buildup.
Toothbrushing doesn't have to be a struggle. Start by getting your cat or dog acclimated to a washcloth or wipe against the teeth. Then reward with a treat or playtime. Repeat daily for a week. Then introduce a toothbrush or finger brush that is the appropriate size for your dog's or cat's mouth. Small toddler toothbrushes work nicely for smaller mouths. Start by brushing with water only for a few days, then introduce a dog- and cat-friendly toothpaste.
The following are videos and instructions for successful toothbrushing:
2. Additional Oral Care Products
- We know teeth brushing is not the easiest for most pets, so we recommend other products. These do not take the place of toothbrushing, but they can help reduce the amount of plaque accumulation.
Healthy Mouth is a VOHC-certified water additive that is 75% effective against plaque (good for up to 2 months once added to the water!) www.healthymouth.com/
Oravet dental chews are a VOHC-certified treat that works by dispersing wax throughout the teeth as they chew, and creates an environment to decrease plaque from adhering to the teeth (like floss!)
1-TDC periodontal & joint health in dogs and cats is a supplement that helps reduce gingivitis and arthritis.
Additionally, the Veterinary Oral Health Council publishes a list of recommended dental products for cats and dogs:
What should I NOT give my dog for chewing?
Chewing objects that are too hard to cause a fractured tooth include antlers, hooves, rocks, ice cubes, and real cow bones. Our rule of thumb is, “If you can’t indent it with your fingernail, then it is hard enough to cause damage to your pet’s teeth.”
Do we recommend non-anesthetic cleanings?
This is not something we offer. However, if you elect this route, please make sure there is a veterinarian on the premises for supervision. This is only an acceptable procedure for pets with minimal tartar to maintain their oral health. For pets with more significant tartar or gingivitis, this will cause them pain, so an anesthetic dental procedure is recommended instead. If your pet is aggressive or anxious, we do not recommend this for them.