Small Animal Dentistry, Dental Treatment & Education offered at Foothills Veterinary Hospital

Foothills Veterinary Hospital (FVH) offers several different approaches to your pet’s dental treatment.

“There is a difference” ***Anesthesia vs. Sedation***
Anesthesia is used when an unconscious state is needed, normally for surgical procedures. In dentistry, this would be for extractions, periodontal work (infected gums are very painful), deep cleaning or possibly an uncooperative animal.

Sedation is used when “quiet and relaxed” is needed. It is similar to a person taking a Valium. In the case of our patients, we’d sedate when sewing up a minor cut or we would sedate our dental patient if they were uncomfortably nervous or too wiggly. It is a short acting injectable procedure.

Non anesthetic dentistry is becoming more popular in terms of dental care choices by owners. The reasons range from price to being uncomfortable at the thought of having their pet anesthetized. In many ways non anesthetic dentistry is an “advanced” brushing. Short term sedation may or may not be used to allow our dental technicians to perform a brief hand scaling and polishing

There are no base line x-rays taken with this procedure. This is only available for pets with very minimal buildup and is subject to change if an oral exam reveals the need for additional treatment.

This procedure is proposed when a clinical exam identifies a more significant build up of plaque or periodontal disease than can be dealt with in a non anesthetic (awake) procedure.

With an anesthetized patient we are able to do a more thorough dental exam and cleaning. Because of the anesthesia, we also do pre- anesthetic blood work. Some veterinary clinics may choose not to offer this safety measure, but it is very important to us to be aware of the possibility that your pet might be an anesthetic risk. This is very rare, but as with people, it does occur and we treat our sedation protocol with the same importance as a human clinic would.

We suggest at this time, doing base line x-rays to assess the condition of the periodontia and root health.

Your pet is pre-medicated, anesthesia is induced and maintained on Sevoflurane gas (the same as with human medicine) via an endotracheal tube. The patient lies on either a heated table or a heating pad with a cover over them. A thorough cleaning is done with an ultrasonic scaler followed by polishing. A complete oral exam is performed including measurement of gingival pockets and recession.

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.

Anesthetized Cleaning – Expanded
When our clinical exam indicates that there is a moderate to severe amount of plaque or dental disease, intra oral x-rays are taken for thorough diagnostics. Hidden dental disease is not always apparent on an awake exam. The intra oral x-ray is the only way to assess the extent of the infection. Besides, being painful to the pet, these infections become systemic, affecting the pet’s overall health. Oral bacterial infections are known to shed their “bacterial spray” to the heart valves, kidneys, liver and lungs.

Our anesthetic and basic dental procedure is the same as the previously discussed. Where this procedure differs is the extent of the dental disease necessitating the x-rays, a longer procedure and possible surgical intervention.

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 us at (360) 829-0500.