We have long understood that the healthiest animals that we see are those that have routine dental examinations and thorough dental procedures when needed.

Our annual health exam includes a visual oral exam often with a recommendation for a dental cleaning or procedure.

Our external physical exam is accompanied by an internal physical, bloodwork and urinalysis if indicated (older patients). This alerts us to any “special” medical needs / conditions that an animal may have.

On the day of the scheduled dental procedure, our patients are admitted between 8:30 and 8:45 in the morning with nothing to eat after 8:30 the evening before.

Pre anesthetic sedation is administered, an IV catheter is placed and IV fluids started.

Induction drugs are gently administered and the patient is intubated and monitoring leads are placed. The patient lies on either a heated table with a cover over them.

A thorough cleaning is then done with an ultrasonic scaler, periodontal pockets are probed and radiographs (x-rays) are always taken.

During this examination, unexpected conditions may become apparent. For example, a fractured or broken tooth that might have been in the back of the mouth and hard to see when the pet was awake, now becomes obviously problematic.

Often we find diseased or loosened teeth that require extraction. The owner will be notified while the patient is still being treated but because of need for the animal’s health and possible inability to contact owner, we have a permission form and/or range of estimate that owner signs before we begin.

The veterinarian and technicians (veterinary nurses) have had extensive dental training in performing these procedures. An assistant is constantly monitoring the anesthesia level for our patient’s safety.

The dental instrumentation used parallels that used in human dental clinics. Our Nomad x-ray generator is used around the world and is renowned for the quality of images produced. Our IM 3 professional dental unit is also “top of the line”.

Anesthetized Cleaning – Expanded:
Intra oral x-rays are always taken for thorough diagnostics. Hidden dental disease is not always apparent on a visual exam of an apparently normal, healthy looking tooth.

If there is an infection or an infected tooth, under the gum and not visually apparent, that condition unfortunately will be missed by a non anesthetic dental procedure as there are no x-rays taken.

These infections are very painful and they also become systemic, affecting the pet’s overall health and potentially, their life span. Oral bacterial infections are known to shed their “bacterial spray” to the heart valves, kidneys, liver and lungs.

Pain Management
We take a proactive approach to addressing the potential for pain during and after dental procedures. Our pre-medication protocol includes medications designed to provide pain relief as well as the initial sedation required to begin. We also have an Erchonia cold laser (see Laser) that we have found very valuable in hastening recovery through enhanced healing and patient comfort. This is an optional treatment and if requested is done both before and after the procedure.

A word about cats
Cats often have serious dental AND oral problems that go unnoticed…..

Due to the sedentary or quiet nature of cats, owners are often unaware of serious dental needs. Many of the cat diseases require oral x-rays to assess the stage of the disease present and the proper treatment. If your cat is cranky or their eating habits become or are tentative, oral problems are strongly suspect.

The most often oral condition seen is Feline Odontoclastic Resorbing Lesions: (tooth resorption) This is a disease, cause unknown, that is the most common, significant and painful oral condition affecting feline patients. The outer surface of the tooth erodes exposing nerves and creating significant pain. Many lesions are not seen with the naked eye and dental radiology is absolutely essential in diagnosing and treating this disease.

A word about dogs
Small dogs seem to have different dental problems than big dogs.

Brachiocephalic or short faced dogs, have less room in their mouths which often makes for crowded or misplaced teeth. Dachshunds with their long narrow nose are more prone to oral-nasal fistulas resulting from untreated dental disease. Small dogs seem to have more problems with plaque and periodontal disease than large. Often it’s the big dogs that chase sticks, rocks and even frisbies, that will damage their teeth by breaking off crowns leaving painful nerves exposed.

These are just average examples, but like people, our pets all need regular dental attention for optimal health.

For more information contact Foothills Veterinary Hospital, Buckley, WA 98321;
Dr. Richard Vetter, DVM
RichardV@FoothillsVetHospital.com; or (360) 829-0500.