Home care of the teeth can include:
- Regular brushing
- Additives placed in the water
- Dental chews
However, yearly dental cleanings by a veterinarian can help prevent infection, bad breath, and loss of teeth. Additionally, overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth can lead to the bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing infection in other organs. The initial assessment of your pet’s teeth occurs during a routine physical exam, but a thorough evaluation requires that the animal be placed under anesthesia so that all surfaces of the teeth and gums can be evaluated. Guidelines set forth by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in 2013 state that a thorough dental cleaning and evaluation requires the animal to be under anesthesia. Even the best trained animal cannot allow us to thoroughly evaluate all aspects of all teeth when awake.
At BVH, several steps are taken to minimize any complications under anesthesia. In order to safely anesthetize a patient, pre-anesthetic blood work is performed to identify any underlying problems that could complicate anesthesia. Ideally, this blood work is performed within 2-3 days of the procedure. The pre-operative blood work is analyzed for any abnormalities and the pet is given a physical exam. An anesthetic protocol is selected which includes pre-operative drugs that typically contain pain medications and sedatives to help calm your pet prior to the procedure. An intravenous catheter is placed to administer the anesthesia as well as provide iv fluid support that helps maintain blood pressure while your pet is under anesthesia. Once under anesthesia, the airways are protected by placing an endotracheal tube that continues to provide oxygen and anesthesia. During anesthesia, several different parameters are continuously monitored to ensure that you pet is stable (electrocardiogram, oxygen saturation of the blood, temperature, amount of carbon dioxide being exhaled, sensation, etc.), and adjustments are made if any of these parameters are not in an acceptable range.
The dental cleaning involves:
- Full-mouth dental radiographs
- Ultrasonically scaling the teeth to remove calculus that is both on the crown of the teeth as well as underneath the gumline
- Extraction of teeth
- Post-extraction radiographs
Each individual tooth is probed to identify any possible pockets of infection that may not be visible to the naked eye. At that time, decisions will be made regarding any extractions, and the nerves to any teeth that need extraction will be blocked. Larger teeth require surgical extraction due to multiple tooth roots as well as protecting the empty socket after surgery. The teeth are then polished, and the animal is taken off of anesthesia and monitored during the recovery phase. Based on the need for extractions and your pet’s overall health, your pet may go home on no medications or a combination of pain and antibiotic medications.