Much attention has been focused on veterinary dentistry in the few last years. Research clearly shows that proper dental care is one of the most important things that you can do to add years and quality to your pets life.
Pet dental care is important because:
• Gum infections hurt!!!
• Gum and teeth disease lead to other infections such as endocarditis (heart valve infection) and kidney infections.
• The bacteria in the mouth can even be a potential source of human infections.
• Your pet will be much more pleasant to be around with no “bad breath.”
• It will save you a great deal of expense in caring for your pet in later years.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT TEETH
WHAT IS TARTAR AND GINGIVITIS?
Tartar, or dental calculus, is mineralized bacteria and debris on your pet’s teeth that leads to gum infections or gingivitis.
CAN DIRTY TEETH BE HARMFUL TO MY PET?
Dirty teeth will cause bad breath, eventual loss of teeth due to infections; and may even lead to generalized infections in your pet due to bacteria entering the blood stream. Heart disease and kidney disease can result from “dirty teeth.”
WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND PRIOR TO THE DENTISTRY?
ECG SCREENING & LABORATORY TESTING: Enhances sedation safety and provides a prognosis of internal organ problems that can affect the health of your pet after the dental cleaning. As the pet grows older, internal organs begin to fail. Even though your pet seems to be in “good health,” blood testing often reveals sub-clinical problems that are treatable when caught in time.
ANTIBIOTICS: Antibiotics are often given before, and then after the dental cleaning (and possible extractions) to eliminate any bacteria present and avoid spreading bacteria into the blood during dental cleaning. In many severe infections, antibiotics will be prescribed for several days and then an appointment is scheduled for a recheck. Be SURE to continue antibiotics until instructed not to do so! Use the entire contents of any prescribed medications before stopping. Oral medications are often prescribed, depending upon the severity of infection. This is not routinely needed in human dentistry because we don’t let our teeth get that bad before seeking professional help.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU CLEAN A PET’S TEETH?
PRE-ANESTHETIC PHYSICAL EXAM: The pet is given a physical exam and any needed laboratory work to insure his / her well-being before the procedure.
ANESTHESIA: Required since your pet will not “open wide.” Sedation also allows us to do a much more thorough job below the gum line, which, although unable to be seen, is where most of the real problem is located. The part of the tooth under the gum line must be cleaned, as well as the exposed portion to really help your pet long-term. Our sedatives are chosen with your your pet’s utmost safety in mind, and are dictated by age, weight, and physical condition.
Any dental cleaning done in the absence of general anesthesia is incomplete and the benefits are cosmetic appearance only. Remember that dental disease occurs below the gumline where we can only reach with anesthesia.
SCALING of the teeth: Remove of tartar above and below the gum line is done with both hand instruments and ultrasonic cleaning equipment.
POLISHING: Just like using fine grit sandpaper after using coarse grit, we must polish to make the teeth smooth. Polishing the teeth after scaling is important to “smooth down” the surfaces and will help the teeth be more resistant to tarter build-up. Without polishing, dental specialists say we are really doing your pet very little good.
CHARTING: A detailed evaluation of each tooth is recorded as part of the medical record. A probe is used to measure pockets in the gum line. Any missing, extracted or abnormal teeth are noted in your pets record.
DIGITAL DENTAL RADIOGRAPHS: Taken of any abnormal teeth, excessively deep pockets in the gum, or discolored or chipped teeth. This allows us to get a better look at the roots of the teeth and identify any issues that may need to be addressed. Fifty percent of serious dental disease is only identified by x-ray because it occurs below the gumline.
FLUORIDE TREATMENT OF THE TEETH AFTER CLEANING is part of the dental prophylaxis procedure. It decreases teeth sensitivity, strengthens enamel, has some antibacterial effects, and decreases the rate of future plaque formation.
ANTISEPTIC FLUSHING: It is important before and after cleaning and polishing to rid the mouth of the ever-present bacteria so they do not invade the gums irritated during the cleaning. Solutions are throughout the mouth to decrease the numbers of bacteria.
WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ME?
Your pet should have no food after 8:00 p.m. the night before your scheduled appointment. Water is allowed free choice at all times. We request that you bring your pet to the hospital before 8:00 a.m, so that we can prepare them for the procedure in the morning. This typically allows your pet to go home between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
WHAT ABOUT EXTRACTIONS?
Only the veterinarian can determine which teeth should be extracted, and which loose teeth can be saved. This is often impossible to determine until the animal is properly sedated, due to pain in the gum area. When extractions are needed, the pet is most often more comfortable after the extraction then before due to elimination of disease.
WHAT CAN I DO AT HOME AFTER CLEANING?
Daily use of a prescribed dentifrice is most important to prevent future problems. Many pets (especially over 5 years of age) will require dental cleaning procedures every 6-12 months to maintain optimum oral hygiene.
OVAVET: A wax-like substance that is used as a dental sealant on clean polished teeth to prevent future tarter build-up. We apply a professional grade product in a though and detailed fashion once the teeth are cleaned and polished. We then teach you to apply a home use version of the product on a weekly basis long term.
Once the dental cleaning procedure has been completed, it is important that you follow the dental hygiene recommendations made for your particular pet to keep your pet’s mouth as healthy as possible.