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When your pet comes in for a dental cleaning and oral examination, he or she will be escorted to our kennel area and have their blood drawn for pre-anesthetic bloodwork. Once we have those results we can determine the safest anesthetic protocol for your pet. A sedative is given and an IV catheter placed to allow intravenous access for medication or fluids as needed during their procedure. Your pet will then be put under anesthesia and an endotracheal tube placed to protect his or her airway during dental cleaning. As always, we put your pet’s safety first (see surgical FAQ’s for more information on anesthetic safety).

Once your pet is anesthetized we can scale the tartar off of his or her teeth with an ultrasonic scaler and fully examine the gingiva (gums), all surface of the teeth and better assess their dental health. Probing the gingiva is very important, as the tooth beneath the gumline can be likened to the portion of an iceberg beneath the ocean. The exposed portion of the tooth can look great, but if the tooth beneath the gumline is diseased, it’s not a healthy tooth. The teeth are then polished, which is a vital step that anesthesia-free dentals skip. Polishing smooths the tooth’s surface, which makes it harder for bacteria to adhere, thus slowing the buildup of plaque and tartar.

We often take pictures of your pet’s mouth before and after the cleaning. These are added to your pet’s medical record and we also send home a copy with you. These pictures give you a clear view of your pet’s mouth, which can be hard to see when they are awake. Below you can see a before (left) and after (right) picture.

For some pets this is all that is needed and they are recovered from anesthesia and sent home for you to continue their dental healthcare. Some pets with more advanced dental disease or fractured teeth will require further care. We may apply a antibiotic infused gel to periodontal pockets to help preserve the health of affected teeth and in some cases your pet will need oral surgery to remove an infected tooth. We have a digital dental x-ray unit to allow us to assess the health of tooth roots and help us determine the most efficient way to extract a tooth when needed.

Cats can develop a unique dental problem called tooth resorption, developing a cavity-like lesion where the crown meets the gumline. These often painful lesions can be found on examination or x-ray and typically require extraction or crown amputation or the affected tooth. For more information on tooth resorption in cats, click here:

A digital dental radiograph showing an infected molar, note the bone loss at the root tips.

Following his or her dental procedure, your pet will be carefully monitored during their recovery from anesthesia. When you arrive to pick up you pet, you will have a discharge appointment with one of our technicians to review his or her dental health and recommendations for home care. Brushing your pet’s teeth every day prevents tartar and bacteria from building up and causing dental disease. To help you with this we have a variety of toothbrushes and several flavors of toothpaste so you can find what works best for your pet. Brushing can be difficult, but worthwhile to help maintain your pet’s dental health! There are a variety of other options to help with dental home care including treats, diets and enzymes (look for VOHC approved products, click link for a list!). Our team is happy to discuss dental home care options, so please let us know any questions you might have.