Step 1: Dental health exam
Why should I do a dental health exam?
- Assess overall status of your animal’s oral health – look for any evidence of 1) tartar accumulation, 2) gingivitis, 3) halitosis: bad breath - did you know that this indicates evidence of bacteria?, 4) pus/blood, 5) mobile/fractured teeth: fractured teeth sometimes aren’t as obvious as you think - slab fractures can occur when chewing on anything hard (ex. antlers, rocks, sticks, etc.)
- Poor oral health can lead to other systemic diseases (ex. heart disease, kidney disease, weight loss, and many others!)
Step 2: Pre-anesthetic bloodwork
Why should I do pre-anesthetic bloodwork?
- General health assessment (liver function, kidney function, evidence of infection or anemia, blood glucose levels) and suitability for general anesthesia
- Guides decisions with managing anesthesia (which sedatives to use, what kind of pain medication to use, what fluid rate is suitable, etc.)
DAY OF DENTISTRY
Step 3: Dental x-rays
- Gives us the overall health status of teeth – we are able to accurately and reliably assess whether there is evidence of disease – allows us to see what is under the gumline and on the inside of the teeth (ex. abscessed roots [“pockets”], root resorption, infection in the pulp cavity [“pulpitis”], root exposure, deformed roots, retained roots, extra teeth)
Step 4: Extracting teeth
How does it happen?
- A flap is made along the gums to allow us to burr away the bone and expose the tooth root(s)
- If there is more than one root, the tooth may be split into pieces to allow for easier removal
- A spoon-like tool, or an “elevator”, is used to help build traction and release the root from the ligament holding it in place
- Gum is stitched with absorbable suture material which dissolves on its own after the gum heals
Will my dog or cat still be able to eat?
- YES! Dogs and cats can do perfectly well without teeth – since they do not need to hunt as they did in the wild, they do not need to be able to chew or bite!
- Using soft food is an effective tool to allow your animal to eat – ASK US if you think your dog or cat should be on a soft diet!
Step 5: Cleaning and polishing
Do I have to do the cleaning?
- Cleaning ensures that we remove all tartar (“calcium deposits”) and bacteria (“plaque”) from the mouth – this helps with bad breath, gingivitis, and the overall health of your pet
- Polishing is an important step to delay the bacteria from attaching onto the tooth after the dentistry
Step 6: At home care - Critical to maintaining oral health and preventing further dentistries!
What kind of at home care should I do?
- BRUSHING TEETH - #1 way to maintain oral health and clean teeth
- Ideally, this should be done every day, but studies have shown that if you brush at least 3x a week, you can reduce the amount of tartar buildup by disrupting the plaque before it hardens
- look for the VOHC seal - this ensures the additive is recommended by veterinary dentists and has gone through testing (ex. Healthy Mouth)
- Veterinary recommended dental diets - are formulated specifically for oral health by being the right size, shape and consistency to allow for a mechanical cleaning action - in some diets, polyphosphates are added to bind to calcium and stop it from progressing into tartar (ex. Royal Canin Dental, Hill’s t/d)
Written by Dr. Emily Chris of The Animal Clinic