You may think that a professional veterinary dental is unnecessary—partly because of the expense—but this procedure is important for your pet’s overall wellbeing. The procedure, which involves much more than brushing your pet’s teeth, can significantly improve your pet’s quality of life and potentially prevent conditions that could lead to deadly circumstances. Our team at Belmont Animal Hospital would like to explain what you should know about professional veterinary dentals.

Veterinary dentals protect your pet from periodontal disease

By the time your pet reaches 3 years of age, they more than likely have some degree of periodontal disease. Bacteria attack food particles left in the teeth and form plaque which invades under their gum line if not promptly removed. These bacteria cause many problems for your pet.

  • Pain — The bacteria break down structures that support your pet’s teeth causing significant discomfort and pain. However, the pain is not always evident since pets are great at concealing any issues that may cause them to be vulnerable. 
  • Bleeding gums — As the bacteria invade the tissue around the teeth, your pet’s gums may become inflamed and possibly bleed.
  • Loose teeth — When the bacteria begin to break down the structures supporting your pet’s teeth, their teeth can become loose.
  • Fractured jaw — Cats and small- and toy-breed dogs are at risk for jaw fractures as the bacteria invade the bones supporting the teeth.
  • Organ damage — The bacteria can enter your pet’s bloodstream and damage their organs including their heart, kidneys, and liver.

Veterinary dentals begin with examining your pet’s mouth

Your pet’s mouth will be examined while they are awake to get a general idea of their dental health. This is also a good opportunity for you to ask any questions or introduce your concerns about your pet’s dental health or the veterinary dental procedure.

Veterinary dentals require your pet to have blood work

Since they will be going under general anesthesia, your pet will need a complete blood count (CBC) and a biochemistry profile performed to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure. This step is necessary for your pet’s safety during the anesthetic process.

Veterinary dentals require general anesthesia for your pet

Your pet needs to undergo general anesthesia to allow our veterinary professionals to thoroughly clean under their gum line. In addition, anesthetizing your pet will protect them from injury since we use sharp instruments to perform the cleaning. This also ensures your pet does not experience any pain or stress during the procedure. We will intubate your pet once they are heavily sedated to ensure their airway remains open and administer oxygen along with the anesthetic gas. The tube also prevents liquid and other material from entering your pet’s lungs. We closely monitor your pet’s vitals throughout the procedure to ensure their safety at all times and adjust their anesthetic level as needed.

Veterinary dentals require X-rays of your pet’s mouth

X-rays allow our veterinary professionals to thoroughly assess the tooth roots and supporting structures of your pet’s teeth. Only a small portion of your pet’s teeth are visible without X-rays which show problems below the gum line including broken teeth and tooth roots, infected bone, dead teeth, abscesses, and jaw fractures.

Veterinary dentals involve cleaning and scaling your pet’s teeth

Once your pet is under general anesthesia, we fully clean your pet’s teeth including the area under their gum line. We use an ultrasonic periodontal scaler to remove dental plaque and tartar and then a rotary polishing tool to polish the teeth to discourage bacteria and plaque from adhering to the rough tooth surface. Once the procedure is completed, we closely monitor your pet until they fully recover from anesthesia.

At-home pet dental care also helps prevent problems

At-home pet dental care is important to prevent periodontal disease from worsening so no costly complications, such as extractions, are encountered during your pet’s professional veterinary dentals. Steps you can take to keep your pet’s mouth clean and healthy include:

  • Brush your pet’s teeth — Brushing your pet’s teeth is a great way to promote their oral hygiene. Tips to help your pet accept the experience include:
    • Use the correct products — Use pet-specific toothpaste because human toothpaste can be dangerous for pets to ingest. In addition, ensure you use a soft, bristled brush that easily fits in your pet’s mouth. 
    • Go slowly — Your pet will need time to acclimate to the experience. Start by getting them used to their mouth being handled. Stick your finger in their mouth, and rub their gums and teeth. Once they allow this, let them lick the pet toothpaste off your finger. Next, you can let them sniff the toothbrush and gently put the brush in their mouth. Start by brushing their front teeth for a short period, and, over several weeks, work up to brushing their back teeth.
    • Praise and reward — Praise your pet profusely when they allow you to brush their teeth, and always end the episode with a high-value treat.
  • Provide dental chews — Many dental chews and treats are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to help remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth.

Scheduling regular professional veterinary dental cleanings will help ensure your pet’s mouth stays clean and healthy and will also protect their overall wellbeing. If you would like to schedule a dental appointment for your pet, contact our team at Belmont Animal Hospital so we can keep their smile beautiful.