Hooch is my almost 4 year old lab mix and it’s been a couple years since he had his teeth cleaned. Regular dental cleanings for our pets are important for the same reasons regular dental cleanings are important for us. Plaque and tartar build up on teeth and they can become damaged and painful. Bacteria below the gum line causes gingivitis and periodontal disease leading to tooth decay and bone loss. That same bacteria gets into our pets’ bloodstream and travels to all the organs of the body and can cause disease in the heart, liver, kidneys and may even affect cognitive function. Most pets need a dental cleaning by the time they are 2 years old and should have one every year after that. Some pets may be able to go longer depending on genetics and home care, but other pets need their teeth cleaned every 6 months. Talk to your veterinarian about how frequently your dog or cats’ teeth need to be cleaned.
I always elect to have preanesthetic lab testing, IV fluids and monitoring for my pets when they undergo an anesthetic procedure because it is the safest option. Before our technicians get started on the cleaning, Hooch will have a complete oral health assessment, including a physical exam and awake oral exam. A technician will obtain a blood sample for laboratory testing. Our in-house lab equipment from IDEXX allows us to get his results in minutes. Dr. Buckley will evaluate Hooch’s results and give the all clear for our technicians to premedicate Hooch. This will help Hooch relax while he is here waiting for his turn on the dental table.
Our technicians work as a team to lift Hooch onto the treatment table and place a catheter for IV fluids. Dental cleanings are done under general anesthesia and oxygen will be delivered throughout the procedure. We use a forced air warmer to help him maintain his body temperature. Once Hooch has been intubated, the technicians hook him up to machines that will monitor his heart rate and respiration as well as connecting him to an IV fluid pump. We also utilize an IV fluid warmer which is another way we help our anesthetic patients maintain a consistent body temperature.
Nichole begins removing the buildup of plaque on Hooch’s teeth, both above and below the gumline, a process calledscaling. We use a machine similar to what a dental hygienist uses to clean human teeth. She’ll spend a few seconds cleaning all the surfaces of each tooth. As she is working, Justine is monitoring Hooch and recording heart and respiration rates. She also trims his nails, obtains a fecal sample and expresses his anal glands. If Hooch were not already microchipped, now would be an ideal time to do so but we had Hooch chipped when he was neutered. Once the plaque has been removed, Dr. Buckley exams the teeth and mouth and x-rays are taken. We use the same digital radiography equipment used in dentist’s offices. Once Dr. Buckley is satisfied there are no teeth needing extraction, Nichole will then polish each tooth using dental paste. Hooch’s teeth and gums will be much healthier, and his breath will be fresher too!
Next comes the important job of recovering Hooch. Pets who undergo anesthetic procedures wake up differently. Some pop right up like nothing happened, others are very groggy and disoriented. Our technicians take a lot of time and care to recover our patients safely. Hooch was disoriented and a little frightened when he woke up so Nichole sat and comforted him until he could be safely moved to a quieter area of the hospital. Previously, Hooch had some nausea after being under anesthesia, so the medical team and I discussed the possibility of administering an anti-nausea drug. It’s not unusual for pets to experience some GI upset with anesthesia or even antibiotics so if your pet has had diarrhea or vomiting during or after a procedure in the past, it’s a good idea to let our medical services staff know so we can have a prescription ready for your pet. Hooch’s dental cleaning was pretty straight-forward, no extractions and he does not have periodontal disease however; his mouth will likely be a little sore. A veterinarian will determine whether a pet might need medications before a cleaning, such as an antibiotic, or after for pain-management. Most dogs are ok to go home and eat the same day! We always recommend taking feeding slow at first, offering just a portion of a full meal and waiting half an hour, beforereturning to full feeds.
Regular dental care is vitally important to the health and well-being of your pet but we know owners worry about the safety of putting their pets under anesthesia. At Oakbrook Animal Hospital the care and safety of your pet is our highest priority. If you have questions about your pet’s anesthetic procedure or any of our safety measures, we invite you to call and speak with a member of medical services staff.
The team at Oakbrook Animal Hospital is here to help!