Oral health is very important to the well-being of our companion pets. Bacteria found in plaque can affect other organs in the body including the liver, kidneys, and heart. Untreated dental disease leads to loss of the bone surrounding the teeth, abscesses, tooth loss, and chronic pain. The doctors and staff at VCA Colonial Animal Hospital are dedicated to helping you keep your pet’s teeth healthy. We strongly believe in preventative dental care – this means cleaning teeth before the gums become diseased. We provide a wide array of dental services including cleaning, polishing, digital dental radiography (x-rays), simple and surgical extractions, treatment of periodontal disease, and repair of jaw fractures. We are also able to arrange referral to a veterinary dental specialist for root canal therapy or orthodontics when indicated.
Dental health is a very important factor in the general health of our patients.
Dental disease can often attribute to oral pain, infection, as well as other underlying issues such as kidney, liver, and heart disease. This is why it is so important for veterinary professionals to be diligent about teaching pet owners about anesthetized dental cleanings and follow-up home care.
When your veterinarian recommends a dental cleaning for your pet you should know what to expect.
First, all dental prophylaxes are done under general anesthesia. Pre-anesthetic blood work is recommended to evaluate the function of specific organs. This helps the veterinary team better manage the patient prior to, during, and post anesthesia. For example, some pre-anesthetics, anesthetics, and pain medications may be avoided in your pet if the blood work indicates and underlying problem, such as reduced kidney function.
Next, all of our patients have a complete physical exam, intravenous catheter placement, fluid therapy, and comprehensive monitoring while under anesthesia on the day of their procedure. Post procedure nursing care is also a very important factor and several licensed veterinary technicians and assistants work together to recover patients by monitoring body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate.
Finally, the drugs used for pre-anesthetic agents, induction agents, and maintenance anesthetic agents are generally rapidly reversible and/or metabolized by the body within several hours. More often than not our patients are discharged from the hospital the same day. Following anesthesia your pet may seem slightly groggy or lethargic for that evening, although this is not expected to last much more than 24 hours post procedure.
Benefits of an anesthetized oral exam, prophylaxis, polish, and fluoride/OraVet® application.
General anesthesia allows for a complete oral examination and assessment of all teeth surfaces and surrounding gingival tissue. General anesthesia also allows for an endotracheal tube to be placed down the patient’s trachea (windpipe). This ensures that the airway is protected during anesthesia, allowing us to safely flush, clean and polish the teeth, without compromising the patient’s lungs.
Many instruments are used to clean, polish and extract the teeth. These instruments include a variety of hand instruments, an ultrasonic scaler, a low speed handpiece (for polishing), and a high speed handpiece (for drilling). Subgingival scaling can be accomplished with t
he ultrasonic scaler. This is one of the major benefits of a dental prophylaxis. Scaling the teeth with a hand instrument while a pet is awake is not effective in removing bacteria build up under the gum line at the base of the tooth. This build up is most often the cause of gingivitis. Additionally, hand scaling, if not followed by polishing, can damages the enamel and lead to tartar accumulation.
Polishing the teeth smoothes out the enamel of the tooth, therefore eliminating any cracks or crevasses where bacteria could potentially accumulate. Fluoride foam is applied to all teeth and then the use of a waxy barrier agent called OraVet® is applied. OraVet® is a synthetic barrier application which can greatly reduce the build-up of tartar and also comes in a once a week home treatment package.
Extractions are not just “pulling teeth” anymore and radiographs are a must have diagnostic tool.
Veterinary dentistry has advanced tremendously over the past decade. Newer extraction techniques have been adopted by veterinarians and new information is always on the horizon. Several of the veterinarians at Colonial Veterinary Hospital have attended hands-on continuing education training seminars focused on dentistry. Most extractions are performed using a “gingival flap” technique which allows for better exposure of the diseased tooth, and a more functional, more quickly healing extraction site. This procedure involves making two incisions along the gum line and making a flap to expose the tooth roots. The tooth is then sectioned and gently elevated; the gingival flap is then sutured closed. Utilizing gingival flaps allows major extractions to be performed without significant trauma to the mouth or prolonged healing time. Extractions are surgical procedures and are no longer “pulling” a tooth.
Radiographic (x-ray) evaluation of the mouth is an extremely important tool for detecting dental disease. Imagine the tooth that is visible to you as an iceberg – the majority of the tooth is actually below the gum line. It is invisible, unless you can look at it with an x-ray machine. Evaluating teeth without radiographs is incomplete, because you are only able to assess a fraction of the teeth. Radiographs can reveal tooth root abnormalities, tooth root abscesses and bone loss, among many other things. Just as your own dentist uses radiographs to evaluate your teeth for decay, veterinarians gain valuable information from radiographs to determine the best treatment plan for your cat or dog.
Follow up home care and what you can do to help prevent tartar and gingivitis.
There are several options when it comes to follow up home care: brushing, rinsing, and/or feeding treats or food specifically designed to help prevent tartar accumulation. These products are strongly recommended. Brushing your pet’s teeth after a dental prophylaxis is the key to prolonging time between dental cleanings because you now have a clean palate to work with.
Please ask about any of our dental prevention products