By Vanessa Vandersande DVM
Pet dental health is a passion of mine. I was fortunate to study under one of the east coast’s prominent board certified veterinary dentists and ever since have been amazed by the many varied repercussions of good dental health.
I have had cats with bad teeth promptly gain as much as a pound after treatment. After a canine dental cleaning, I have had a client tell me that her elderly dog started wagging its tail again after three years of no tail wagging. I had a patient who kept walking backwards and no one could figure out why; after some bad teeth were removed it stopped walking backward.
The level of pain that animals suffer without showing any obvious symptoms is astounding and nothing makes me happier than when clients come in to their dental recheck with a story of newfound happiness, improved appetite and increased vigor. These stories have cemented my passion for high quality dentistry.
Signs of dental disease can widely vary and there are differences among species. Bad breath, swelling of the cheeks, tooth grinding or broken teeth are obvious signs. More frequently the signs are so subtle you would never notice them. A slow weight loss over many months, slightly crabby behavior, or change in the pet’s usual routine are much more frequent presentations.
These changes are easily overlooked but our weapon in this fight is your pet’s annual exam. When we examine your pet’s teeth every year we are carefully looking for signs of disease to determine the need for a cleaning.
Once bloodwork and heart health have been cleared we schedule the dental. The pet will have an IV catheter placed for fluid support and sensors to monitor heart rhythm and oxygen levels. Once the pet is under anesthesia a complete set of dental x-rays are taken. This is one of the most important parts of the dental procedure. It is impossible to evaluate the roots of the teeth without x rays and the roots are important since they are the attachment point of the tooth to the skull. We look for signs of bone loss around the roots, cracks or holes in the teeth themselves, or sometimes roots that remain behind long after the crown of the tooth has broken off, leaving an excellent seed for infection. These things can only be seen with x-rays.
At this point, we call the pet’s owner and discuss what we have found. If all the teeth are healthy, we rejoice, clean well under the gum line, polish, apply fluoride and wake the pet up. If teeth need to be removed for the pet’s overall health, extractions begin. A local anesthetic is given, just as a human dentist would do. Single rooted teeth are wiggled out using special tools.
Multiple rooted teeth are divided into sections using a drill first. The remaining hole is closed with absorbable suture, allowing the gum to completely heal together and providing the pet with a disease free mouth.
Post dental pain control and antibiotics are important to healing. Several research papers have indicated that excellent pain control improves speed and quality of healing. Once your pet is awake we call to let you know that they have done well under anesthesia and arrange for a discharge appointment.
After the dental, we always discuss preventives, so we can minimize dental care in the hospital and keep it at home where it will be more economical and beneficial for your dog or cat. Come and investigate high quality dental care at Copper Hill Animal Clinic, for lasting value and health for your pet. We would love to hear your story of the improved quality of life that comes with your pet’s dental care.