Primary Care

Dental Care

Our hospital offers a variety of dentistry services. At your pet's yearly examination it may be determined that they require a dental cleaning. Routine veterinary dentistry involves prophylaxis (teeth cleaning), polishing and a full oral examination.

Dental prophylaxis is performed with your pet under general anesthesia. It involves cleaning the surface of each tooth and scaling below the gum line, where food, bacteria, and tartar build up. To ensure the safety of your pet, pre-operative blood work will be performed prior to the anesthesia.

During a dental procedure, your veterinarian evaluates your pet's teeth for fractures, caries (cavities), excessive wear, and other abnormalities. Your veterinarian will also examine around the gums to detect periodontal disease.

Sometimes teeth need to be pulled (extracted). Dental x-rays, if available, aid in selection of teeth to be pulled and to aid in evaluation of periodontal and other oral diseases. If your pet is found to have more advanced dental or periodontal disease, your veterinarian may recommend more specialized procedures.

Pet Dental Care: Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need to schedule a consultation before my pet's procedure?
 Our veterinarians want to treat each patient's dental condition thoroughly. We want to fully evaluate your pet, review the medical records, and prepare an anesthetic protocol tailored to your pet's unique needs. Also, some dental procedures take more time than others, and we want to schedule adequate time to perform all of the dental treatment your pet needs.

What happens on the day of the procedure?
 You will be instructed to withhold food and water the morning of the procedure. Special instructions may be given for pets with certain medical conditions or very young puppies or kittens. You will be asked to have your pet ready to check in to the hospital between 7 and  8 a.m. At that time, a technician will review your pet's medical history, and you will be asked to sign a surgical release form and leave a deposit. You will also be asked for phone numbers where you can be reached during the day.

 The technician will weigh your pet and take his or her vital signs. If your pet needs blood work, the blood is drawn and run in our lab. The veterinarian will perform a physical exam, listen to your pet's heart and lungs, and review his or her blood work. After your pet is cleared for anesthesia, an anesthetic plan is prepared and your pet is given a sedative and pain medication. 

 When your pet is under anesthesia, our veterinarian will perform an oral exam and take intraoral radiographs (dental X-rays). The necessary procedures will be performed, and you will be contacted if any changes in the treatment plan are encountered. 

 After the procedure is completed, we will monitor your pet until he or she is fully recovered. We usually keep our patients for one to two hours after anesthesia before they are discharged.

 When your pet is discharged, you will be given a full dental report with photographs and radiographs. Written post-operative care instructions will be provided, and our technicians will explain medication and feeding instructions. At this time, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled so that we can evaluate the healing process.

Why does my pet need anesthesia? Is it safe?
• To thoroughly perform dental treatments, we need to be able to fully access all areas of the pet's mouth, especially surfaces next to the tongue or in the back of the mouth.
• Intraoral radiographs (dental X-rays) require careful positioning with no movement. 
• During the cleaning we will be creating debris and irrigating the mouth, and your pet's airway needs to be protected. 
• To properly treat periodontal disease, it is essential to treat the areas beneath the gum tissues, and the patient must be very still while we are using sharp instruments near delicate tissues. 

 To help ensure the safety of the anesthesia, each pet is carefully examined and blood work is checked to evaluate organ function. The anesthetic agents we use are tailored to each pet's needs and are very carefully monitored by trained staff members.

Why are dental radiographs necessary if I only want my pet's teeth cleaned?
 We know from published studies that up to 50% of abnormalities present in the mouth cannot be properly diagnosed without dental X-rays. Treating only the visible crowns of the teeth may not properly treat areas of bone loss or hidden infection. Because our pets cannot complain about dental pain, it is important not to leave any abnormalities untreated. 

My dog has a broken tooth, but it doesn't bother him, is that important?
 Broken teeth can allow bacteria to enter into the pulp tissue inside of the tooth. These bacteria cause infection within the tooth, which can kill the pulp and spread through the root into the surrounding bone. Signs of pain from this type of injury may not be obvious, but just as in people, it is painful to our pets. Treatment with root canal therapy or extraction can relieve the pain and infection. 
 To prevent broken teeth, never allow your dog to chew on bones, plastic, rubber, or nylon toys, cow hooves, deer antlers, or any hard chew that cannot bend. For more information, see our handout on Broken Teeth and endodontic treatment 

How will my pet eat after teeth are extracted?
 In the immediate post-operative period, you will be instructed to soften your pet's dry food or to feed a canned food. We will give your pet medication for pain. Once the veterinarian has evaluated your pet for healing, you will be given instructions on what food is best for your pet. Even if your pet has had most or all teeth extracted due to infection, he or she will be healthier and can eat soft food comfortably.

How can we manage my pet's pain?
 We use multiple types of pain management starting even before the procedure begins to ensure that your pet is comfortable. With a combination of pain medications, we can provide whatever therapy is needed to help your pet heal without discomfort. Some medications can be provided in liquid or topical form or hidden in treats to make acceptance easier.

How much will the procedure cost?
 The exact cost of a procedure will depend on the type of procedure performed, the materials needed for that procedure, and the time it takes. During the initial consultation, we will give you an itemized treatment plan with an estimate of the cost.

What can I do to keep periodontal disease from occurring?
 Periodontal disease starts with plaque, an invisible film that forms on teeth daily. When plaque is allowed to stay on the tooth surface, harmful bacteria will grow within this protective film, causing inflammation of the tissues supporting the tooth. Daily plaque removal is essential for controlling periodontal disease, and the most effective method is tooth brushing. Most pets will accept tooth brushing if it is introduced gradually, starting with handling of the mouth and lips, with positive reinforcement until a brush can be introduced. We can show you how to work with your pet to make tooth brushing acceptable and a fun part of your pet's daily care. 

 Other products that have been helpful in controlling plaque and tartar can be found on the website of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). Unless the product has the VOHC seal, there is no proof of effectiveness.