How Does The Vet Clean My Cat’s or Dog’s Teeth?

In the previous post the importance of regular dental care by your pet’s caretaker is emphasized.  As diligent as we might be in accepting this responsibility, cats and dogs as in people require periodic professional dental cleaning or prophylaxis.  This is usually in a veterinary hospital that has full laboratory, surgery, dental and anesthesia capabilities.  The inital step in performing a dentistry is a thorough assessment of your pet’s health.  This requires a physical exam as well as blood testing and possible x-rays and/or cardiac evaluation if any heart murmur is detected.

Once these evaluations are concluded and your pet had been given a clean pre-anesthetic bill of health, your dog or cat will be premedicated and then placed under general anesthesia.  A breathing tube will be introduced into the trachea and anesthetic gas will then be used to keep him or her asleep during the procedure.

A thorough oral exam should next be performed to check for any obvious dental abscesses, broken or partially resorbed teeth, inflammed or diseased gums or gingiva and very importantly the mouth, tongue and all other oral structures examined for growths.  Next a veterinary technician will use an ultrasonic cleaner to remove the tartar from all tooth surfaces as well as cleaning deeply above or below the gum lines.  This is very important as hidden tartar contributes greatly to the damage that takes place. Following this scaling a polisher will then be used to complete the cleaning process.  A scaler, while cleaning the teeth, also creates microscopic scratches in the tooth surface or enamel.  If polishing is not done these scratches can act to allow tartar to accumulate at a much faster rate than previously.  Therefore scaling without polishing should never be done.  It has been shown that it is better for your pet to have nothing done if polishing does not follow scaling. During the dental cleaning process the teeth and roots will continually be evaluated for disease as well as signs of degeneration.  Dental x-rays may be necessary to thoroughly evaluate your pet’s oral health. 

Once the cleaning, evaluation, extractions (if needed) and x-rays are completed your pet will be allowed to wake up and recover.  A few hours will generally be required before your pet is released to you with instructions.  Depending upon the severity of the dental procedure antibiotics may be sent home.

The above outlines the dental cleaning and in hospital care required to promote your pet’s dental health.  This prophylaxis or cleaning may be required as frequently as every 6 months or as infrequently as once every few years.  The interval is dependent on the ongoing dental care you provide at home as well as your pet’s diet and oral chemistry.  The importance of this care is essential.  Remember that an heavy load of bacteria that resides in the mouth becomes spread throughout the body. This can result in serious kidney, liver or cardiac disease.  So remember, a healthy pet needs a healthy mouth.