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Modern Dental Care for Pets

Source: Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Updated on July 16, 2015
Dental Disorders


A quiet revolution has occurred in veterinary dentistry and you need to know about it, because early intervention dental care programs prevent more than just tooth decay.

Advanced medical equipment, increased levels of training for veterinarians and registered technicians, and comprehensive client education programs are helping bring modern dentistry to your community. Board certified dental specialists are also increasingly available. A general veterinary practitioner will refer your pet to a dental specialist for complicated dental procedures.

Taking Care of Dental Health

Some veterinary practices have a special interest in dental care and are particularly well outfitted for veterinary dentistry. These practices may employ veterinarians and veterinary technicians who have obtained dental certificates and may offer dental (intra-oral) X-rays and comprehensive dental preventive programs designed for each life stage and tailored to each individual pet.

Regular physical examinations are the first step to protecting your pet’s oral health. Annual check ups in younger pets, and twice yearly check ups in seniors provide opportunities for the trained professional to examine tooth and oral tissue health. This regular screening process is valuable because it provides a normal baseline for your pet and helps to identify serious diseases such as cancer. Since cancer of the oral cavity exhibits many of the same symptoms as other dental diseases, prompt identification and treatment of these problems is very important

If dental problems are identified, your veterinary health care team will suggest an appropriate intervention that will stabilize the disease process, and in some cases, cure it. Frequently, a professional dental cleaning will be recommended. During this procedure, teeth are cleaned and polished above and below the gum line while the pet is anesthetized. Dental charting during the procedure records the results of the comprehensive dental examination (which can only be carried out in a pet while under anesthetic), and the treatments carried out.

Concerns About Anesthesia

Some pet owners have concerns about the safety of anesthetic used for dental procedures. Modern anesthesia is quite safe, and along with proper pre-anesthetic evaluation should be seen as a necessary component of veterinary dentistry. Dental procedures conducted while pets are conscious are risky and should be avoided. After all, dogs and cats cannot be expected to open wide and hold still for the course of a procedure that might produce discomfort. Reflex responses include biting and sudden movements that may lead to wounds of the delicate mouth tissue.

Pre-anesthetic evaluation does not completely eliminate anesthetic risk, but provides reassurance that many hidden medical problems will be picked up before the procedure begins. In addition to the physical examination, assessments may include some combination of tests including a complete blood count, urine analysis, blood chemistry determinations (especially of liver and kidney function), and sometimes ECGs and chest X-rays.

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