Did you know that 80% of animals over 5 years of age have some form of dental disease? Dental disease can mean living with a painful or infected mouth, as well as the risk of bacteria showering from the mouth through the bloodstream to organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. At Tsawwassen Animal Hospital, we utilize the latest techniques and modern equipment to provide the best pet dentistry service.
Our pet dentistry service includes scaling, polishing and fluoride treatment. All cats and dogs are put under general anesthesia for their dentistry to ensure their comfort during the procedure. They also receive intravenous fluids during and after the procedure to maintain their blood pressure and each pet is provided with the same close monitoring they would receive during surgery.
Prior to the dentistry, your pet will have received a thorough dental examination with the veterinarian and the need for extractions may be discussed as well as pre-surgery antibiotic treatments. Should this be the case, the procedure will be discussed in full and all options will be addressed.
Ten pet dentistry steps to a healthy pet mouth
1. Physical examination
Every animal we see has an examination of the mouth performed as part of the general physical examination. We can see if there is obvious disease in the mouth. We will grade the severity of the dental disease we can see on a scale from 1-4, with one being minor dental problems and 4 being major dental problems. This gives us a rough idea of what we may need to do during a dental procedure. It is difficult to fully examine the mouth of an awake pet and we can only see the crowns ( part of the tooth above the gumline) of the teeth, NOT the roots. We will provide a rough estimate for the procedures we may need to do. We may find more problems during the dental procedure and in this case we will call you to discuss our findings and give you an exact cost for the procedure.
2. Pre-anesthetic testing
We strongly recommend that youden pet have blood tests prior to general anesthesia. A blood test helps us to ensure that your pet is in good health and to make an appropriate anesthetic plan. This can be done a few days prior to or on the day of the procedure.
3. General anesthesia
Dentistry requires an animal to be under a general anesthetic. The patient is anesthetized and IV catheter and anesthetic monitors are placed. A licensed Veterinary Technician closely monitors the patient during the dental procedure.
The only way to accurately evaluate the whole tooth is to x-ray. The crown is the only portion of the tooth visible-the root of the tooth is embedded in a socket in the jaw bone. In many cases the crown of the tooth may appear normal, but an x-ray of the tooth may reveal a problem with the root that requires treatment.
Cats have a high incidence of dental disease below the gumline so we xray the whole mouth as part of our dental procedure.
For your dog, we will recommend an x-ray of any tooth that we suspect could have a problem under the gumline: cracked tooth, missing tooth, infected or loose tooth or a tooth with deep gingival pockets. We use a digital dental x-ray system to x-ray each tooth. The x-ray is then read by the attending veterinarian.
Scaling is the process where the tartar is removed from the teeth. Tartar is produced by bacteria that live on the teeth.
Tartar causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and this leads to recession of the gums, exposure of the tooth roots and eventually loss of the tooth. We remove the tartar with a combination of an ultrasonic scaler and hand scaling (just like the human dental hygienists). Removal of the tartar on the teeth is vital to improving the health of the mouth and it also removes the source of the patient’s halitosis (bad breath).
6. Periodontal probing
Once the teeth have been scaled the veterinarian examines each tooth individually with a periodontal probe.
We use the probe to look for pockets. Pockets are caused by the gum losing its attachment to the tooth. Bacteria and tartar can accumulate in the pocket causing the wall of the tooth socket to erode. This leads to loosening of the tooth in the socket and eventually tooth loss. A small pocket may be cleaned and flushed, but a deep pocket usually requires that the affected tooth is removed.
The combination of radiology and periodontal probing allows us to accurately diagnose any problems with the teeth and formulate a treatment plan. We use a special chart to record our findings and treatments.
If we decide that a tooth cannot be saved, dental surgery will be preformed to extract it. The first step is to place a local anesthetic block to block the tooth.
Even though the patient is under an anesthetic removing a tooth can cause pain and the local block gives the patient immediate pain relief. The effect lasts for several hours to offer the patient post operative comfort. Once the freezing has taken effect, we elevate a flap of gum tissue to expose the jaw bone. A high speed drill is used to cut the tooth into sections to allow for easier removal. The tooth is removed using instruments called elevators. Once the tooth is removed the socket is cleaned. A post extraction x-ray is taken to make sure that all of the roots have been removed. Once we have confirmed that there are no tooth root remnants, we close over the socket using the gum flap. This prevents food material from becoming lodged in the empty socket. The flap is sutured with a fine absorbable suture.
Some teeth may have a deep gingival pocket but not be severely enough affected to require extraction. We may then recommend that the pocket be filled with “Doxyrobe” an antibacterial polymer gel that helps to eliminate deep infection and preserve the attachments of the gingival to the tooth.
10. Post operative care
We will give specific post operative instructions. Your pet may be prescribed antibiotics and pain relief medication. We may recommend softened food and no tooth brushing for a few days. We will discuss treatment options designed to reduce the accumulation of tartar on the teeth. The treatment options may include a combination of tooth brushing, special dental diets and oral rinses.