Did you know that doggie breath = disease? Here are some frequently asked questions about veterinary dentistry!

Why does my pet need to be anesthetized in order to clean its teeth?

There is no way to adequately evaluate the teeth of a non-anesthetized animal. Dogs have 42 permanent teeth, and cats have 30 permanent teeth. Some of these teeth aren’t visible until the animal’s jaw is relaxed and the lips and cheeks are pulled away from the teeth. Part of a dental evaluation and cleaning is the crucial cleaning of the inside surfaces of the teeth and underneath the gums, using a probe to measure any pocketing, and radiographing teeth to evaluate for periodontal disease. None of these things can take place unless a patient is safely anesthetized.

What happens when my pet has a dental cleaning at South Mesa?

  1. Examination by the attending veterinarian the morning of the procedure, and development of an anesthetic plan. Our patients are often geriatric, and we tailor anesthesia to fit the patient.
  2. Induction of anesthesia and monitoring and stabilization of anesthetized patient.
  3. Oral examination of the anesthetized patient. This is our first opportunity to carefully examine all the teeth in the mouth.
  4. Cleaning the teeth, both above and below the gum line.
  5. Polishing the teeth. Polishing is a crucial step because it removes the minor defects that are created during the cleaning process.
  6. Careful exam and charting of all teeth in mouth. We use a periodontal probe in order to evaluate periodontal pocketing, bone loss, gingivitis, and plan for radiographs.
  7. Radiographs in order to evaluate teeth.
  8. Therapies, including extraction of teeth that are beyond help.
  9. Recovery from anesthesia: Patients are moved from the dental table into the surgical recovery area, where they are kept warm as they awaken from anesthesia.
  10. Go home!! Owners are given instructions for post-anesthesia and post-dentistry care. We also plan for the recheck exam which happens anywhere from 1-4 weeks post-dentistry. What happens if I don’t want my pet’s teeth cleaned?

Plaque and tartar begin accumulating in your pet’s mouth from the time that they are puppies and kittens. There are many different factors that play a role in the development of severe dental disease including breed, size, and age. Once the tartar combines with bacteria in the mouth and the minerals in animal saliva it starts to form calculus, which is the rock hard substance forming on your pet’s teeth. Bacteria trapped under the gum-line causes inflammation leading to gingivitis, bad breath and ultimately the destruction of the structures that hold the tooth in the mouth. If untreated, dental disease can lead to oral pain, tooth loss, bone loss, severe halitosis, and even abscessation of dental structures. We also know that the presence of active dental disease can lead to inflammation throughout the body and may contribute to the progression of kidney disease, liver disease and cardiac disease. What can I do at home?

Once your pet has developed active dental disease, it needs to have an anesthetized cleaning. The good news is that if we do this cleaning before the onset of periodontal disease we can reverse the dental disease and slow any further progression by instituting a home care program. This will vary patient to patient. The best way to start is by bringing your pet in for a dental evaluation. We will help you determine what we can do to give your pet a healthy mouth.