Dental care is an important factor of your pet’s overall health. Studies show that nearly 85% of dogs and cats over 3 years of age will have evidence of gingivitis.

As in people, plaque buildup on dog and cat teeth leads to red, irritated gums, a condition called gingivitis. Plaque begins as a film of food particles and bacteria that can harden over time into a dark, rock-like scale. Bacteria invade the gap between the gum and the tooth, causing inflammation. Over time, bacteria can destroy the bone that holds the tooth in place, leading to tooth loss or the need for extraction. On occasion, bacteria can even invade the bloodstream, leading to serious infections in other organs such as the heart.

Unfortunately, quite a bit of damage due to dental disease can occur before you notice anything. Pets with early gum disease generally don’t show any signs at all, except for a little bad breath. As the problem progresses, the gums can become very red and sore, and your pet may not want to chew hard food. You might see smears of blood on your pet’s chew toys. Pets often rub their mouths with their paws or against other surfaces. The bad breath gets progressively worse, and pets with severe dental disease can have very foul mouth odors.

Just like us, our pets need regular dental checkups to keep their teeth and gums healthy. Lifting the lips along the sides of the mouth can reveal dark-colored plaque or a line of reddish inflammation where the teeth meet the gums. Teeth must be cleaned regularly to remove the buildup, and on a more thorough examination of the teeth, gums, and entire mouth, teeth may be identified that need additional treatment or possibly extraction.

The Dental Experience – a Technicians Point of View

By Chris Tanaka, IVS Head Technician

Your pet will be under our care and supervision for a good part of the day. Your pet will spend its day in our treatment department resting comfortably in a cage with a warm blanket.

Your pet will wear a neck band with his first and last name as well as have a ‘pink’ cage card to signify that your pet is a dental patient. This insures proper identification of the pet as well as insuring continued fasting before anesthesia. The cage card also has your pet’s stats which we confirm prior to beginning any procedure.

Once your pet’s medical file has been updated with the requested procedure, it is reviewed by the veterinarian who creates a treatment plan for the technician to follow. The veterinarian will perform a physical exam on your pet prior to your pet’s procedure. Pre-anesthetic blood work will be run and reviewed on our in-house laboratory machines to confirm that your pet is a good anesthetic candidate.

Once the doctor has confirmed that your pet is in good health and able to handle anesthesia, an anesthetic protocol is completed by the doctor for your technicians to follow. This protocol identifies the pre-medications, pain medications, anesthesia, antibiotics, post op medications that will be used before, during and after your pet’s dental.

Thirty minutes prior to your pet’s dental, pre-medications are given, insuring a smooth induction process. Once your pet is feeling the effects of the pre-meds, an IV catheter will be placed. A small area of the fore-limb or hind leg is then shaved and surgically prepped, alternating between chlorhexidine and alcohol scrubs. An IV catheter is then placed and secured.

Once the doctor gives the green light, induction begins. Two technicians are assigned to this procedure. Your pet is placed on a warm water recirculation pad and induction begins. This is usually started with an injectable agent. The pet is then intubated with a cuffed tracheal tube and connected to an inhalation anesthetic machine containing isoflurane. The cuff is inflated and the eyes are lubricated to prevent dryness.

The technician assigned to monitor anesthesia starts the IV pump which is now connected to your pet. IV fluids are administered to all pets undergoing this procedure, helping maintain good organ function and blood pressure. Any pre procedure medications are given, such as IV antibiotics or other specific drugs.

Monitors are connected to your pet, measuring parameters such as heart rate, oxygen saturation, ECG and blood pressure. These are all indicators of a proper plane of anesthesia. This technician is responsible for alerting the doctor to any concerns. This technician is also responsible for completing the anesthetic record, logging the many mentioned parameters at 5 minute intervals.

The dental technician, who is properly dressed, gloved, surgically masked and wearing eye protection, is in charge of performing the dental procedure. This starts with a series of full mouth x-rays. These radiographs are reviewed by your veterinarian, alerting them to any problems under the gum-line.

Extractions and closures are performed as needed. Ultrasonic scaling is performed, curetting under the gum-line and probing for hidden pockets is also completed. The teeth are then polished with a dental grade prophy paste, rinsed and finished with a fluoride treatment. Anesthetic is turned off leaving medical grade oxygen for your pet to breath, helping in recovery. Monitors are disconnected and fluids turned off.

Once this entire procedure is completed, your pet is transferred to a recovery cage with a fresh blanket, fluids reconnected, post-op medications given and tracheal cuff deflated. Your pet will be extubated(tracheal tube removed) when exhibiting good jaw tone and reflexes. A blanket is placed over your pet to help maintain warmth. A doctor will call reporting on your pet’s status.

Your pet spends their recovery time being monitored in the treatment area. When the appropriate amount of IV fluids has been given, your pets IV catheter will be removed and a bandage placed.

When you arrive to pick up your pet a technician will go over any post-op care, medications or answer any questions you may have.

What to Expect When Scheduling and Bringing your Pet in for a Dental Cleaning

  • Dental cleanings can be scheduled on any day. If you have a preference on which doctor will be supervising the cleaning, please let us know so we can schedule the cleaning on a day when that doctor will be present.
  • If we have not already provided you an estimate, we can prepare an estimate when you call.
  • You will receive a confirmation call the day prior to your pet’s dental cleaning appointment to remind you not to feed after 10 pm, you can offer a small bowl of water overnight, do not feed the morning of the cleaning and pick up the water bowl.
  • Drop off between 7-8 am the morning of the dental cleaning. Please allow time to review and sign the estimate and admittance sheet and leave a phone number where you can be reached during the day.
  • At drop off, we will ask you if we have authorization to proceed with extractions if deemed necessary by the doctor.
  • A pre-anesthetic blood panel will be performed the morning of the dental cleaning, if a blood panel has not already been performed. This checks for signs of infection, liver & kidney function and aids the doctor in assessing the risk of using anesthesia on your pet.
  • While your pet is under anesthesia and waking up, we will be administering intravenous fluids. This helps to keep your pet hydrated, flushes the anesthesia out of their system and an intravenous catheter is in place in case of emergency.
  • After the dental cleaning, the doctor will call you with an update and review any home care instructions with you.
  • Generally, your pet can go home between 4-7pm. A release appointment may be scheduled with the doctor or technician so they can review any home care instructions, including medications and showing you how to get started brushing your pet’s teeth at home.
  • As a follow up, we will call you the next day for an update. If you have any questions or concerns, call us at any time.

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