So now you're all probably wondering- what happens when home care alone is not enough? Let's say you've been inspired to start brushing or offering more dental care products, but your pet's pearly whites are already subpar? Or, maybe you've been a diligent pet owner and brushing since the beginning, but your pet's teeth still show signs of disease? We'll talk today about professional dental cleanings. Let's walk through it step by step:
1. Physical exam and dental assessment
Checking your pet's teeth and gums is part of every physical exam. When bad breath, difficulty chewing, excess saliva/drool or facial swelling are present, the dental exam is even more in depth. Veterinarians will do their best to assess each tooth, but as you can probably guess, Fido doesn't exactly allow us to do a great exam of even all of the outside teeth, much less the hard palate, under the tongue, or the other three surfaces of every tooth. If there is heavy tartar and calculus buildup, swelling or gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), your vet will probably recommend a dental cleaning.
2. Pre-anesthetic exam and diagnostics.
Based on your pet's age, health status and other medications, bloodwork may be done ahead of time to ensure that your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia. The bloodwork will check for signs of systemic illness, anemia, infection, and overall organ function to make sure your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia. The results will help us know what medications to use for sedating your pet, as well as what other treatment, such as fluids and antibiotics, that they may need during and after the dental cleaning.
3. The big day.
Generally speaking, dental cleanings are a full day at the spa, so to speak. Our clinic schedules these procedures on certain days, and we have you drop them off early that morning. We'll touch base regarding any questions or concerns, and make sure to have an appropriate number to call you during the day. Your pet will be weighed and given another once-over to make sure we're all set!
When it's their turn to clean their chompers, they'll be given an injection of a sedative and analgesic cocktail to take the edge off. Once they're sedated, they'll have an endotracheal tube placed in their trachea, and this will be connected to a gas anesthetic machine. This has dual purposes: it will provide anesthestic gas and oxygen, but also protect your pet's airway when the dental cleaning begins. After your pet is fully anesthetized and intubated, he or she is placed on their side on a dental table- basically a big sink with a grate on top, so the water will be carried away from them. The veterinarian will start cleaning the teeth while a technician monitors your pet's heart rate, respiration and depth of anesthesia.
The first part of the cleaning is called scaling. Using a high speed ultrasonic scaler, the plaque, tartar and calculus are removed from all surfaces of the pet's tooth. This tool is also used to clean under the gumline.
Next, a polisher and some dental prophy paste are used to polish out any microscopic defects in the surface of the tooth, making it more difficult for plaque and dental to reattach.
The prophy paste is rinsed off, and a flouride gel is applied. And that's it!
Your pet's anesthetic gas is discontinued, and their endotracheal tube removed. They're moved to a warm cage and allowed to wake up in some comfy blankets. Within a few minutes, your pet will be up and at 'em. We monitor them for a few hours to make sure they're doing well. They get to go out for a walk and a bathroom break, and before you know it they're ready to walk out the door with their pearly whites on display.
7. At home
That night and the next day they may be a little tired, but otherwise back to normal! We recommend only feeding them a small amount of food and water that evening to make sure their stomach is not upset, but they can resume a normal diet the next day.
If any major extractions or infections were found, we may ask to recheck your pet in a week or so to ensure adequate healing. Most dental cleanings need no follow up care from the veterinarian, but are ready for you to start fresh with a clean slate of healthy teeth! It's a perfect time to start that home care we've talked about.
So that's it! Pretty easy, huh? We hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit more about dental health for your dog and cats! Remember to provide dental care for your pet on a regular basis, and ask us if you have any questions!