Few things can make a bigger difference in the health of pets than proper dental care. Periodontal disease is associated with numerous health issues including heart disease, kidney disease and obviously dental or oral health. We are passionate about helping our pets to have the best oral health possible. Below are the steps that are usually followed in performing dental services in our hospital.
Dental Care Steps
1. Patient History and Exam A good history and exam is important. We check for any specific dental lesions and pay particular attention to health that may affect anesthesia. We also provide an initial dental estimate. Really, only after the gross calculus (calculus is the mineralized deposits on the teeth) is removed and radiographs are taken can a true assessment of the mouth be made. (See step 10)
2. Initial Oral Exam After anesthetizing, we first do a “once over” and look for specific things like abnormalities or lesions present in the mouth. We also check for broken or discolored teeth, any mobility, lesions, missing teeth or any type of oral tissue enlargement or recession.
3. Calculus Removal After doing the initial exam of the mouth we remove all of the gross calculus. The majority of calculus is removed with an ultrasonic scaler, we also use hand scalers for deep grooves and hard to reach places.
4. Subgingival Cleaning We also use an ultrasonic scaler to clean beneath the gum line as well as using hand curettes. This is one of the most vital steps. It is often the case that what we don’t see can be the most harmful. Incidentally, we occasionally hear of “anesthesia-free” dentistry. A great fallacy of this approach is that by cleaning the crown or visible part of tooth, a complete dental has been performed. Even if this procedure is attempted, there is no way to clean the vital area under the gum line.
5. Polishing After cleaning and scaling the teeth, it is vital to polish the surface. This removes irregularities and small defects that occur during the cleaning process. Smoothing the teeth slows the buildup of plaque and calculus.
6. Irrigation and Lavage After cleaning and polishing the teeth, debris can build up in the gum pockets. We flush this debris out to prevent irritation and remove loose calculus.
7. Radiographs Radiographs are an essential tool in dentistry. Eighty percent of the tooth is below the gum line and cannot be visualized without the use of radiography.
8. Complete Charting Anything out of the ordinary is recorded for future reference. We provide a copy of charting for clients to go home with so they are aware of the problems present in the mouth. 9. Fluoride Application Fluoride application strengthens enamel and decreases sensitivity. 10. Treatment Plan After all dental disease has been assessed; we form a plan for treatment. Most treatments are done in the same anesthetic episode as the dental cleaning. When additional treatment is needed beyond what the owner is expecting we contact the owner to see if they would like to continue with the treatment, and then provide an estimate of the cost. I.E. tooth extractions, bonding and sealing, etc. 11. Home Care After a dental cleaning, the pet will have a clean slate in which to begin home care. This is to try and prevent further issues. We provide the following handout to help with brushing. We also have a variety of rinses, gels, chews and food that can help with home care.
First off, below is an instructional video provided by the Veterinary Dental Specialists in Gilbert.
Steve and Kris show that with a little work and dedication, home care including brushing your dog’s teeth really works!
12. Recheck In two weeks after the dental cleaning we assess the mouth again to see how the pet is recovering, and sometimes again in six months.