Max is a spirited 8-year-old Dachshund. He came in to see us for dental concerns, including bad breath and tartar buildup on his teeth.
80% of pets have dental disease by 3 years of age. Small dogs, like max, are at an even higher risk for developing dental disease. This is due in part to differences in the alignment of teeth as well as chewing habits found smaller breeds. If your pet is experiencing pain, often exhibited by refusing to eat, has changed chewing habits or has bad breath, then dental disease is likely the culprit. In Max’s case, his doctor recommended a dental cleaning.
Max was scheduled for a dental cleaning, which is done under general anesthesia. The morning of surgery, Max arrived bright and early, around 7am. He was received by one of our highly qualified surgery technicians, who would care for him throughout the rest of the day and see to his every need. He was prepped for surgery- receiving an IV catheter to facilitate administration of fluids that would help Max maintain normal blood pressure, hydration, and recover quicker. He was then moved into our dedicated dental suite, equipped with monitoring equipment and dental radiographs. He was induced with an injectable anesthetic and maintained on an inhaled anesthetic and oxygen for the remainder of the procedure.
The cleaning process includes ultrasonic scaling and hand scaling of the teeth to remove plaque and calculus. Probing and measurement of tooth and associated periodontal pocket is done to assess gum and root health. Radiographs are taken if any tooth appears compromised. Finally, the teeth are polished, this discourages future bacteria buildup, leaving the teeth pearly white.
You may be wondering why general anesthesia is necessary? After all, wouldn’t it be safer for the patent to just due this under sedation? The truth is, anesthesia when performed correctly is very safe. It is also necessary for the proper evaluation and cleaning of the teeth. Non-anesthetic cleanings do not allow for adequate probing or use of the ultrasonic scaler. Sedated dental only allows for hand scaling, which can actually result in damage of the tooth enamel and does not allow the doctor to address any periodontal disease or extract teeth if needed.
In some circumstances, dental x-rays are necessary for the veterinarian to determine the health of the tooth and surrounding bone. Extractions may be performed if there is radiographic evidence of disease. In Max’s case, a total of 9 teeth required extraction. Losing this number of teeth may seem shocking, however patients seem relieved after extractions and are happier without a constant nagging toothache.
Max was prescribed pain medication and antibiotics and was able to go home that evening. A soft food diet was needed for 7 days while his extraction sites healed.
Along with his annual examination, Max’s preventative dental care now includes teeth brushing and a new diet. Hill’s t/d Dental care diet encourages chewing and prevents tartar buildup. Tooth brushing was started slowly so that Max would willingly accept the feeling and process. He now enjoys the Vanilla Mint flavor pet enzymatic toothpaste! Human toothpaste should never be used on pets as it is not meant to be swallowed and can contain harmful ingredients. Another great option for oral health is enzymatic dental chews. Dental chews encourage chewing and contain ingredients that fight tartar buildup. However, it is important to understand that these home care products do not substitute a dental cleaning if it is needed. Talk to your veterinarian about other dental care options for your pet.