At your pets annual physical exam, the Veterinarian will look at your pets teeth to see what kind of condition they are in. When the doctor examines your pets teeth, she is looking for several different things:
- number of teeth
- condition of teeth (staining, fractures, etc.)
- plaque and tartar
- gingivitis & general condition of gums
- odour of the breath
- loose teeth
When a doctor recommends a dental cleaning for your pet(s), it is because she has found that your pet has at least one of the problems on the list above.
A dental cleaning must be performed under general anaesthetic in order to do a proper job.
The procedure begins once the animal has been put under general anaesthetic and an endotracheal tube is placed in his/her throat. The technician starts by removing any of the large calculus from the teeth and then uses the sonic scaler to remove the layers of plaque. Once the teeth are cleaned off, hand instruments check for any pockets between the gums and the teeth (cats should have pockets of no more than 1 mm, and dogs no more than 3 mm). This allows us to assess the teeth for which ones need to be pulled. If any teeth need to be removed, we do it at this time by “elevating” the teeth. This is done with special instruments called elevators, which are long, flat and sharp on one side only. They allow us to get between the tooth and the gums to try and loosen any existing ligaments so that the tooth will become loose enough to pull out.
Once any bad teeth are taken out, the technician goes over each tooth again with a hand scaler to check to make sure the sonic scaler hasn’t left any plaque behind.
When the technician is finished checking all of the teeth and is happy that all the bad and/or loose teeth have been taken out, she will polish the teeth with polishing paste to even out the tooth surface. This helps to prevent plaque and tartar from adhering to the teeth. A usual dental cleaning takes approximately 30 - 40 minutes and the pet is able to go home the same day.
Despite regular home dental care, many pets will still need to have a professional dental cleaning every few years. Dental home care simply increases the time between cleanings.
Dental cleanings must be performed under anaesthetic, because the machines we use make loud noises and would scare pets. Also, even the best of cat or dog simply would not allow us to poke around in their mouths.
Good dental care should be considered a part of your pets general health care routine. A pet with clean, healthy teeth is a happy pet.