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Dental Care

A dental examination is carried out during most consultations, especially at booster vaccination times. A minimum of one dental check per annum is recommended but some pets should be checked more regularly. This will ensure your vet is able to keep a sharp eye out for early signs of gingivitis, gum damage and any other mouth problems.

Pets, like people, form plaque and tartar on their teeth. This leads to the build-up of hard calcified deposits on the surface of the teeth, especially at the point where the tooth meets the gum. This process then leads to inflammation of the gum (gingivitis) and a progressive inflammation and destruction of the membrane lining the roots of the teeth (periodontal disease).

Nurse clinics are held at most of our surgeries and our experienced nurses will be only too pleased to discuss dental care with you and give demonstrations of how best to care for your pet’s teeth.

Is it important to have my pet’s teeth cleaned?

Absolutely! The first stage of dental disease is when plaque forms on the teeth. This is a mixture of bacteria and food protein. Over time, this will harden to form tartar, which cannot be brushed away. Tartar contains bacteria which causes infections and gum damage as well as loosens the teeth. These bacteria can also enter the blood stream through the gums and can cause heart, liver and kidney disease. If there is a risk that this may have already happened or could happen, we may advise that you treat your pet with antibiotics before bringing them in for a cleaning.

Cleaning the teeth:

  • Helps prolong your pet’s life span
  • Prevents gum disease, and
  • Can help prevent heart, liver and kidney disease 

This helps ensure a longer and healthier life for your pet.

Why is teeth cleaning more expensive for pets than for people?

Your dentist or oral hygienist can ask you to open wide and sit still. It is not as simple for pets. They do not understand what we want from them. To ensure that we can do a thorough job and minimise the pain and anxiety they experience, we need to give them a general anaesthetic and monitor their status all the time – even during their recovery!

Human teeth generally have single short roots and are easy to remove. However, animals' teeth are mostly multi-rooted. This means it takes much longer to extract them correctly. In some cases, it can take between 15-30 minutes to remove a single tooth! Compare this with people, where a competent dentist can remove four molar teeth in approximately 2 minutes!

My pet shows no pain and eats normally – is dental treatment really necessary?

Even the most perceptive people are unlikely to pick up that an animal is suffering from chronic low grade pain like a small ulcer in the mouth or red and painful gums. Therefore, a dental examination by a trained professional is the best way to examine your pet's mouth.

Prevention is by far the best course of action and can take the shape of brushing your pet’s teeth and feeding treats and food especially designed to reduce and remove plaque.

Once formed, early removal of tartar prevents it developing to such a stage that results in teeth needing to be extracted. Regular cleanings in the clinic can prevent the loss of teeth and other long-term health problems like heart, liver and kidney disease.

Is going to the dentist as bad an experience for my pet as it is for me?

Not at all. Vets have the advantage over dentists in that your pet cannot anticipate this experience and become anxious. You may have to stay wide awake with your mouth open, listening to the whine of the drill. Your pet is sound asleep and free from pain. If the procedure does become a little more complicated, with a possibility of post-operative pain, we will immediately also recommend a short course of post-operative pain relief to minimise the likelihood of any discomfort.

Why can’t the vet tell me exactly what this procedure will cost?

Before the scale is removed, your pet’s mouth needs to be thoroughly charted to determine exactly what work is necessary. Only then can we be reasonably sure as to whether any teeth need to be removed. Sometimes, before we make this decision, we may need to take dental X-rays. You can therefore see how difficult it is to accurately estimate what is going to be done (and the costs involved) until the animal has had its mouth thoroughly and carefully examined.

What exactly will happen to my pet on the day of the dental?

On the morning of the procedure, your pet will first be given a thorough clinical examination. You also have the option of having pre-op blood profiles taken. This is highly recommended and acts as a screen for underlying illnesses that we may not be aware of or be able to pick up with the clinical examination, e.g. early kidney or liver problems. This is extremely valuable in all animals and, we believe, essential in older pets.

These test results are then analysed by the vet before your pet is given a sedative pre-medication. This has a calming effect and reduces the amount of anaesthetic necessary – another way of helping minimise the risks associated with general anaesthetics.

About half an hour later, a catheter is placed into the vein in the front leg through which the anaesthetic will be slowly injected. When your pet is at the correct level of anaesthesia, a tube is placed into the airway and connected to a gas anaesthetic machine. The progress of the anaesthetic is constantly monitored and charted. A gas called isoflurane is used which is especially safer for older pets.

Your pet will then be moved to the dental table where the mouth is surveyed and charted. The amount of tartar and inflammation of the gums is noted. The teeth are then scaled with the ultrasonic scaler. Once property cleaned and fully exposed, the teeth can be probed to determine which, if any, need to be removed. Dental X-rays are sometimes necessary at this point. If teeth need to be removed, they may be sectioned into pieces, as they usually have two or three routes.

After removal, the sites are flushed and cleaned and the rest of the teeth are polished with a high-speed polisher. After a final inspection, the teeth are sealed with ‘pro-v-seal’ which reduces the rate at which plaque and tartar accumulate.

Dental health is vitally important for the well-being of your pet. Consequently, we advise a programme of on-going preventative dental health care, e.g. using Hills TD as the preferred food, tooth brushing, etc.

We are always happy to help answer any questions you may have. Our nurses also offer FREE dental healthcare clinics where they can help devise a suitable preventative healthcare plan for your pet, as well as show you how to brush your pet's teeth.

Phone your local Medivet vets today for an appointment.