Dental Care

Regularly scheduled dental cleanings are extremely important for your pet’s overall health. Owners are often very concerned about this procedure because, to be done properly, it requires general anesthesia. To help alleviate your concerns, our veterinarians have organized this information explaining the benefits and risks, and describing the actual procedure.

We understand that you are placing the safety and health of your pet in our hands. We accept this responsibility and want to provide the best care available for your pet.

Dental procedures can be performed on pets of almost all ages and stages of health.
Unfortunately, the older the patient, the more likely it is that they will have severe dental disease requiring extensive work. Many times, because owners fear anesthesia in older pets, the dental disease goes untreated until it becomes so severe that it makes the pet systemically ill. At that point, there is no alternative, and the pet must undergo anesthesia while ill. Because this scenario happens so often, our doctors strongly recommend that owners initiate regularly scheduled dental cleanings early in their pet’s life.

If your pet has not been seen by one of our doctors in the past six months, a pre-anesthetic exam is required before the dental can begin. After arrival, pets are given a “pre-med” injection of sedatives and other medications to help relieve anxiety and stress, make recovery more smooth and reduce pain after the procedure. One or both front legs may have the hair shaved to make IV injections or catheter placement less traumatic. Pets are put under general anesthesia and an endotracheal tube is placed in the airway to protect it and to maintain gas anesthesia, exactly as is done in a human hospital. An ECG is set up to monitor your pet’s heart and devices are used to measure blood oxygen and CO2 to monitor lung function. After being placed on a thermal support pad, his teeth will be cleaned above and below the gumline to remove plaque and calculus using hand instruments and an ultrasonic scaler. The gums and teeth are evaluated and if needed, radiographs (x-rays) are taken, teeth are extracted, or other procedures are performed. The teeth are polished to remove any microscopic nicks or imperfections left by the scaling instruments. Pain medications and antibiotics are administered as needed. You will be called once your pet is in recovery. Your pet will recover in an ICU cage and monitored closely. You can pick him up when he is fully recovered from anesthesia.

The benefits of dental cleanings are substantial. In addition to cleaning the mouth and eliminating halitosis, a dental prophy removes millions of bacteria above and below the gumline. Left undisturbed, these bacteria can cause oral abscesses, tooth decay, and can predispose your pet to systemic infections. These infections can affect the kidneys, liver, prostate or the heart valves. Additionally, dental disease is painful, and while most pets hide the pain and continue to eat despite it, most owners report a significant increase in energy and a much improved attitude in their pets after they have had a bad mouth cleaned up.

Although dental procedures are considered routine, general anesthesia is required. As with any anesthetic episode, there are risks involved. At the Interstate Animal Clinic, we use the latest in drug protocols and anesthesia monitoring to minimize the risks. Risks associated with anesthesia and a dental prophy include:

  1. Anesthesia complications – Most pets undergoing a dental prophy are middle-aged adults or older. We strongly recommend pre-anesthetic blood work to identify any underlying medical condition that would increase the risk of anesthesia. We also recommend an IV catheter and fluids to provide us access to the bloodstream and help maintain blood pressure should a problem occur.
  2. Infection – A dental prophy cleans the dental tartar and bacteria from the surface of the teeth and from under the gumline. During the procedure, the bacteria can become aerosolized. Rarely, the bacteria can invade the bloodstream. If your pet’s teeth are moderately to severely affected, we will often prescribe antibiotics before, during and after the procedure to help prevent this.
  3. Bleeding – Bleeding from the gum line can occur during and after the procedure. This is often not significant and will stop within several hours.
  4. Sensitive gums – If your pet requires a large amount of cleaning or extractions, your pet may have sensitive gums for several days after the procedure. Often, softening dry food will alleviate any pain from eating. If extractions or other painful procedures are necessary, pain medications will be administered before recovery and will be sent home with your pet.

A successful procedure, with no complications, requires the cooperation of both the veterinary staff and the owner. The Interstate Animal Clinic strives to provide the best care available before, during, and after the procedure for your pet. We need your cooperation to provide this level of care. Instructions for your pet will include:

  1. Do not feed your pet after 9:00 p.m. the night before the dental. He can continue to have water throughout the night.
  2. Thoroughly consider our anesthetic options – pre-anesthetic blood work, and fluids.
  3. Thoroughly complete anesthesia check-in form, including leaving us a telephone number where you can be reached throughout the day so that we can call you if we find unexpected problems in the mouth or your pet needs additional treatments.
  4. Keep your pet warm and dry after anesthesia. It is recommended that all pets be kept inside for a minimum of 24 hours after anesthesia.
  5. Administer medications as directed prior to and after the procedure.
  6. Start an at-home dental care program for your pet. This can be as simple as feeding a tartar control food, or as inclusive as daily brushing and a weekly application of a sealer.

Our doctors and staff have organized this brochure to help answer any questions you may have concerning your pet’s procedure. However, if you have other questions, please call us. We have several optional services provided by our hospital during the dental cleaning to maximize the care we provide. You will be asked to accept or decline these services upon arrival for anesthesia check-in.

Thank you for entrusting the doctors and staff of the Interstate Animal Clinic with the wellbeing of your pet.