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Do you know what it really entails to clean your pet’s teeth? Many people have asked me, why is it so expensive?? Why can't you just "pull the tooth out"? Please allow me to share with you what it entails to have your pet's teeth cleaned so that you can be better educated about pet oral health.

Often people hold off too long on caring for their pet’s teeth. Some of the most common reasons are:

· Cost of the procedure (anywhere from $300-$,1,000)and even more sometimes!

· Unable to make time for appointment (simple as adjusting your work or home schedule for just one morning and one afternoon)

· Not educated in serious problems that can occur when you don’t care for your pet’s teeth!

Signs of Dental Disease include:

· Foul breath

· Drooling, sometimes with a blood tinge to the saliva

· Chewing food on only one side of the mouth

· Pawing at mouth and/or rubbing face on floor or carpet

· Trying to bite when you touch around face (sign of pain)

· Always acting hungry (because they are unable to eat with bad teeth)

· Not wanting to eat (hurts to eat)

There are four stages of gum disease.

1. Stage 1- presents with reddened gingival tissues. This is the initial stage. Bad breath is one of the first signs.

2. Stage II- presents as the early stage of gum disease. Signs include moderate reddening at the free gingival margin, edema, and plaque. Most animals are between the ages of one and four. Cats sometimes are affected later. With scaling, polishing and home care, this stage is usually curable.

3. Stage III- presents Established Periodontal Disease. This stage appears as edema, inflammation and the beginning of pocket formation. This marks the change from gingivitis which is reversible with treatment, to periodontitis which is controllable with therapy, but not curable. The patient presents with extremely strong “smelly breath”.

4. Stage IV- appears as severe inflammation (bleeding on contact), deep pockets, gum recession, bone loss, pustular discharge, and tooth mobility. The severe inflammation and pain in some cases causes the animals to rub their face, drop food while eating, and drool excessively. Although treatable, stage IV is not curable.



To clean the teeth:
Only a trained veterinary dental technician and the veterinarian should ever attempt to do a dental procedure on your pet! The use of anesthesia is essential! It is not possible to do a thorough dental procedure with your pet awake. Steer clear of the "dental cleaning without anesthesia" Scams. They are breaking the law and could injure your pet! Before being placed under anesthesia your pet will have blood drawn and sent to a lab for a blood test that will tell your veterinarian if it is safe to have your pet placed under anesthesia. Once anesthetized they are monitored closely by a trained technician and every step possible is taken to keep your pet's body temperature normal. The use of warm Intravenous Fluids, warming blankets (vet approved) and bear huggers (warm air circulating around your pet) are all steps taken to assure your pet is comfortable and does well under anesthesia!

Teeth cleaning is accomplished with the use of both hand scalers and ultrasonic power scalers. Both should be used. Hand instruments include scalers, curets, explores, and probes.

Steps of the dental procedure:

There are six steps to the complete dental procedure. The first step is the oral examination. Once your pet is under anesthesia he/she will be checked for facial swellings or unevenness, swollen lymph glands in the neck while comparing the size from the right to the left. Facial sides of the teeth and gums will be examined for discoloration, swelling, gum loss, periodontal pockets and fractured teeth. Full mouth dental Xrays will be taken to see the condition of each root. The last part of the exam is charting all teeth for any abnormalities. All abnormal findings will be noted on your pet’s permanent dental record.

Next is to grade the mobility of a tooth. Teeth are anchored in the jaw by the periodontal ligament. Unfortunately due to trauma or disease teeth can become mobile.

Ÿ Grade I mobility- indicates slight movement up to 1 millimeter.

Ÿ Grade II mobility- indicates movement up to 2 millimeters.

Ÿ Grade III mobility-signifies movement of 3 millimeters or more.

The Staff may also take before and after pictures for you as part of your pet's at home record.

The second step to the dental procedure is the removal of tartar and calculus from the crown. This can be performed by either a hand scaler or a power scaler, (ultra sonic scaler). The mechanical power scaler works by vibrations that knock off the calculus. The scaler is used with constant motion across the teeth.

The third step of the prophy is the removal of deposits below the gumline. This is also called sub gingival scaling and planing of the root surface. Hand curets or sub-gingival ultra sonic scalers are used for this step. If there are teeth that need to be extracted the veterinarian will begin this step. It is not as easy as you might think to extract a tooth since they are embedded within the bone. It is a series of steps to remove the gum tissue away from the tooth, drill around the roots and some of the larger teeth need to be dissected in order for each root to be elevated out. This is a surgical procedure, one that often requires absorbable sutures once extracted. Only a licensed veterinarian is permitted to extract any teeth!

The fourth step of the complete dental procedure is polishing and applying flouride to the teeth. Scaling creates minute scratches on the enamel. If left untreated these scratches attract plaque which can lead to early gingivitis. To remove these imperfections the teeth are polished with a special dental prophy paste. Polishers used to deliver paste to the teeth are electric slow speed or air driven slow speed. Polishing removes the rough tooth surfaces that were created by plaque and calculus as well as by the scaling procedure. The goal is to get the crown surface as smooth as possible so that plaque does not have gouges to build up plaque. The flouride helps to strengthen the enamel.

The fifth step is irrigation. The teeth and gingival sulci are flushed to remove debris from the dental cleaning procedure. This removes potentially harmful irritants from the gum pocket.

The final step (sixth step) is the post prophy exam and home care instructions. Home care includes those things the client can do at home to provide preventative maintenance. The main form of home care is daily brushing. Home care instructions are essential for continued patient progress. Client awareness and timely dental cleanings contribute to longer lives for our pets and better smelling breath!

Diet is also an important issue. Harder foods tend to decrease the rate of plaque deposit in comparison to softer foods. Clients should be advised that some bones can be harmful. Chewing on bones can break teeth and cut into the gum tissue. Horse or cow hooves can create a “slab” fracture of the upper fourth premolar which can expose the pulp to infection and can require a root canal or extraction.

Flat rawhide chews will not usually cause problems and compressed rawhide has been shown effective as well.

Scheduling the follow up appointment is essential to the progress examination. Dental care does not end once the teeth are cleaned. Long term dental programs are outlined individually by the veterinarian for each patient. Some animals need monthly rechecks while others without observable disease can be reexamined yearly. Most middle aged dogs and cats should have a minimum of two per year. Patients with grade IV periodontal disease need reexaminations every two or three months. Grade I gingivitis cases are rechecked every six to twelve months. Those patients with Grade II and III gingivitis can usually be reexamined every six months.

If your vet has not done an oral examination on your pet's mouth recently, call to schedule your pet's examination so you know how your pet's oral health is doing. It’s National Pet Dental Awareness Months! Do it!

Thank you for taking the time to care for your pet’s teeth and over all health!

Kim MacCrone-CVT

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