Periodontal disease (problems in the area around the teeth) is the most common health problem in companion animals. It is estimated that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats older than 3 years of age suffer from some level of periodontal disease. There are four grades of periodontal disease. Pets with grade 1 periodontal disease have gingivitis or redness of the gums, while grade 2 is indicated by gingivitis and plaque, which is a film of mucous and bacteria on the teeth. Grade 3 periodontal disease is classified by the presence of gingivitis, plaque and calculus which is a hardened residue that forms on top of plaque. Pets with Grade 4 periodontal disease have gingivitis, calculus, and root exposure or mobile teeth.
Without proper cleaning of the teeth and keeping the gums healthy, your pet could be harboring millions of dangerous bacteria which could be causing harm without your knowledge. Symptoms of dental disease include pain caused by abscesses and resorptive lesions (exposed nerve tissue) which are extremely painful and can result in drooling, dropping food, and difficulty eating. Continued periodontal disease can result in inflammation in the gums, resulting in destruction of the bone around the tooth roots and eventually the loss of teeth. In small breed dogs with tiny jawbones, the bone destruction caused by periodontal disease can even weaken the jawbone enough to cause a fracture. The millions of bacteria present in an unhealthy mouth can spread to other parts of the body, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver causing irreversible disease and permanent damage to these vital organs.
A professional dental cleaning is the only way to ensure that your pet does not continue to suffer from periodontal disease. If you schedule a professional dental cleaning for your pet we always recommend doing blood work. Blood work allows us to evaluate the function of your pet’s vital organs such as their liver and kidneys, which are important in clearing anesthesia from the body. Although blood work is not required it greatly reduces your pet’s anesthetic risk and should be seriously considered.
In order to have a professional dental cleaning your pet will be admitted to River Road Veterinary Clinic for the day and placed under full anesthesia. After they are admitted they will be given a premedication which will relax them and provide some pain relief. After the premedication an IV catheter is placed in every dental patient. This allows us to provide adequate warm fluids to your pet during anesthesia as well as provides us with IV access in the event of an emergency.
It is important to remember that there is always a risk when placing an animal under anesthesia. Your pet will be placed under full anesthesia for their professional dental cleaning. This is done by giving an IV injection of an anesthetic induction agent. This allows us to place a breathing tube in your pet and hook them up to the anesthesia machine where they will receive their gas anesthesia and oxygen. During the cleaning your pet will be monitored closely by a doctor, a technician, and a Cardell Veterinary Monitor. The Cardell Veterinary Monitor measures your pet’s heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen concentration, body temperature and respirations.
Once your pet is full asleep his/her teeth will be scaled by one of our doctors or technicians using our DentalAire Dental machine. The teeth are scaled to remove all plaque and calculus on the inner and outer surfaces as well as below the gum-line where bacteria often thrive. Each tooth is then polished with a preventative paste. Sometimes it becomes apparent while your pet is under anesthesia that some teeth need to be extracted. These teeth include those that are loose, broken, painful, have extreme gingival recession, neck lesions, deep gingival pockets, or exposed pulp cavities. Most extractions are sutured with absorbable suture.
Once your pet’s teeth are clean we will turn off the anesthesia and allow them to wake up. They will receive additional oxygen and their breathing tubes will be removed as soon as they are able to swallow. Your pet will likely be very groggy for a few hours and it may take a full 24 hours for them to return to normal. In most cases your pet may return home the same day of the procedure. Many pets will return home with a course of antibiotics and possibly pain medication.
After your pet has had a professional dental cleaning is a perfect time to take control of their dental health. Once daily brushing with a pet-specific toothpaste is the best option. If this is not feasible for your pet we have a variety of dental diets, chews, and additives that can help you keep your pets teeth clean and healthy. T/D is a specially formulated dental diet made by Hills that works to scrape the plaque off of your pet’s teeth, keeping them healthy and clean and lengthening the amount of time between professional dental cleanings. Hills T/D is a prescription diet available for cats, and small and large breed dogs.