Professional veterinary dental cleanings should be part of your pet’s wellness plan. Most pets’ teeth should be evaluated and cleaned once a year, but some pets, such as small breeds, brachycephalic pets, and senior pets, who are at high risk for dental disease, should be seen more frequently. These procedures are a comprehensive assessment of your pet’s oral health and beneficial to your pet’s overall wellbeing, and our Town and Country Animal Hospital team considers them an essential veterinary service. So, we explain why professional dental cleanings are important for your pet, and what you should expect.
Your pet’s overall health is assessed
Our team is concerned about your pet’s overall health, and before we address problems in their mouth, we perform diagnostics to ensure they have no underlying medical issues. In addition, bacteria that cause dental disease can enter your pet’s bloodstream, leading to systemic problems and organ damage throughout their body. We perform the following diagnostics before your pet’s professional dental cleaning:
- History — Our team asks you to provide your pet’s detailed medical history, including any reactions to medications or anesthetics.
- Physical exam — We thoroughly examine your pet from head to tail, looking for abnormalities that may indicate a health problem. We also visually examine their mouth for an initial assessment of their oral health.
- Blood work — We cannot detect every health issue on a physical exam, so we perform a complete blood count and biochemistry profile to check for issues such as anemia, infection, electrolyte imbalances, kidney disease, and liver dysfunction.
- Other diagnostics — In some cases, we may recommend other diagnostics, such as chest X-rays or a heart ultrasound, to ensure your pet is healthy enough for the procedure.
Your pet is anesthetized
Professional veterinary dental cleanings involve using sharp instruments in your pet’s mouth, which can frighten your pet, who likely will not cooperate. Therefore, your pet requires anesthesia to ensure they are not stressed or injured during the procedure, and to allow our veterinary team to perform a thorough job. A veterinary professional is assigned to your pet, and carefully monitors your pet’s vitals throughout the procedure until they are fully recovered.
Your pet’s mouth is X-rayed
Only about 40% to 50% of your pet’s dental structures are visible, and we need dental X-rays to visualize the structures below the gum line. Without these views, our team cannot make a fully informed treatment plan for your pet. Lesions we may miss without dental X-rays include:
- Bone loss
- Tooth fractures
- Tooth root abscesses
- Dead teeth
- Tooth resorption lesions
- Jaw fractures=
Your pet’s mouth is fully examined
Once your pet is safely anesthetized and their dental X-rays evaluated, we carefully examine their teeth, tongue, salivary glands, lymph nodes, mucosal tissue, and gingiva. We also check each tooth’s mobility, and probe around each tooth checking for abnormal periodontal pockets. We record our findings in your pet’s dental chart, and determine an appropriate treatment plan for every tooth. Potential complications caused by periodontal disease include:
- Gingivitis — Bacteria aggravate the gingiva, and the tissue may bleed when we probe below the gum line.
- Loose teeth — As periodontal disease advances, supporting tooth structures are damaged, leading to loose teeth.
- Oronasal fistula — Periodontal bacteria can create an opening between the mouth and nasal cavity, which allows food and saliva to enter the nasal passage, creating chronic inflammation and possibly respiratory infections.
- Oral cancer — Periodontal disease causes chronic inflammation, which may lead to oral cancer.
Your pet’s teeth are cleaned
We use an ultrasonic scaler and hand-held curettes to remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth and from under their gum line, where most damage occurs.
Your pet’s teeth are polished
During plaque and tartar removal, we make micro etchings on your pet’s teeth, so we polish your pet’s teeth to remove these areas, which encourage bacterial growth. Then, we use a fluoride infused polish to strengthen the enamel and help prevent tooth sensitivity.
Your pet’s dental issues are addressed
If your pet’s teeth are diseased or damaged, we may recommend extraction or other treatments, and we may prescribe medications, such as antibiotics or pain relievers, in some cases. We provide detailed discharge instructions before we send your pet home to ensure you know the special care your pet will need.
An at-home dental care plan is made for your pet
Plaque starts to accumulate quickly after a professional dental cleaning, and at-home dental care is critical to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Here are some ways to improve your pet’s dental health:
- Regular brushing — Daily toothbrushing using a pet-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste is the most effective way to prevent plaque formation. Find a toothpaste flavor that entices your pet to facilitate the process, and offer praise and treats when they cooperate.
- Dental treats — Dental treats also can help remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. Choose Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved products that have been proven safe and effective.
- Dental diets — Feeding your pet a prescription dental diet can help promote their oral health. The kibble pieces are formulated to scrape the tooth when your pet chews, and many contain additives to help reduce plaque accumulation.
Our Town and Country Animal Hospital team offers dental packages to encourage you to maintain a dental care regimen for your pet. Call today to schedule an appointment.
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