DENTAL CARE FOR PETS
boy we REALLY need to clean those teeth
Clean the teeth? Seriously?”
“My pets did fine without this when I was a kid. My pet eats just fine. He’s not in pain.”
We hear these comments from our clients daily. The truth is most pets will continue to eat despite dental pain. This type of pain is constant and throbbing, but not one that pets can easily tell us about or demonstrate.
What we also hear from our clients is how much more lively and playful their pet is after we have removed infected, painful teeth.
This more than anything else confirms the amount of pain the pet was in before the procedure.
Why worry about my pet's teeth?
The goals of dental care are to eliminate current pain, prevent future loss of teeth, reduce discomfort from new infections, and decrease secondary risks of heart, liver and kidney infections due to severe dental disease.
Pets often survived in the past not because of what we did, but despite what we did or did not do for them. Our pets now live much closer to us than they used to. They are in our homes and often next to us on the couch. We are more aware of their health than ever before. We have learned how to not only keep them with us longer but how to make that time with us more comfortable and healthy. Dental care is one of the biggest advances in better lives for our pets.
The costs of pet dental care are associated with the time these procedures involve, the use of anesthesia, and advanced equipment and training.
Real dental cleanings are not just brushing the teeth.
True dental cleanings involve scaling the teeth (the scraping your dentist does to your teeth), including under the gums. This can be painful, especially after years of tartar build up. Pets will not willingly sit still for true subgingival cleanings.
Don’t be fooled by those selling cleanings while your pet is awake.
Dental cleaning instruments are very sharp. Use of these instruments in a moving patient is unsafe and ineffective. Disease occurs under the gums, so just cleaning the part you can see is nothing more than a cosmetic procedure.
In addition, the teeth must be fully polished to smooth grooves left in the enamel from the cleaning. This is so that plaque and tartar do not reform even faster into these grooves. Polishing requires a rotating device just like your dentist uses, and the polish is applied under the gums. Again, this is not possible to perform on a pet that is awake.
Anesthesia allows full cleaning and polishing under controlled conditions to prevent damage to the gums and teeth. We also take x-rays of the teeth so we know without question if the teeth are healthy. Because our patients are asleep, we can remove diseased, painful teeth right away if necessary.
We have invested in advanced equipment and training that allow us to provide a high level of care while minimizing anesthesia time. While all these steps add to cost, they also add up to the best care and healthier pets!
Is there REALLY a big difference between animal hospitals?
The short answer is yes! There are no laws telling veterinarians how to practice medicine.
There are minimum standards that are expected, but these are not laws and no one verifies what level of care each hospital provides. It is up to the owner to decide if their veterinarian is up to the standards they expect for their pet.
Both costs and quality can vary considerably, so asking the right questions can help you determine what is going on behind the scenes. For example, dental X-rays are required for full diagnosis and proper treatment. Without X-rays it is very difficult to determine the extent of teeth decay or damage should it be present.
Dental disease hurts. True dental cleanings have to be performed under anesthesia.
We believe that every anesthetized patient should be intubated because pets can vomit during anesthesia. Intubation is the best way to help their airway get continuous oxygen while asleep and can be more quickly assisted with breathing if needed. There is no law saying anesthetized patients have to be intubated and some clinics do not use this safety measure for every procedure.
Anesthesia also decreases blood pressure. Low blood pressure can cause brain and kidney damage if prolonged. We use intravenous fluids to maintain good blood pressure and allow quick administration of other medications if needed. Many clinics do not take this extra step due to the added costs, especially for spays, neuters, and dental cleanings.
Other safety measures we use for our patients include their own anesthesia nurse who never leaves their side. Over 10 different parameters are measured using advanced monitors during anesthesia. Multiple heating devices to keep patients warm, and multiple methods of pain control before during and after the procedure. This not only helps with comfort but decreases the number of anesthesia medications needed.