What to expect during a veterinary dental cleaning | Special seasonal sections


Oral health is as important to pets as it is to their owners. Left unchecked in pets, periodontal disease can lead to pain, eating disorders and other problems.

Pet owners are encouraged to brush their pets’ teeth to help remove bacteria that can lead to tartar buildup. If oral hygiene is ignored, pets can develop dental cavities and other problems.

People know from experience what to expect when they go to the dentist for a cleaning, but cleaning a pet’s mouth can be an unknown — and that can induce anxiety. Most cleanings follow a similar pattern and recognizing this pattern can give pet owners an idea of ​​what to expect during a veterinary dental cleaning.

One of the main differences between a dental cleaning for a person and one for a pet is the use of anesthesia. According to Kulshan Veterinary Hospital, pets do not voluntarily open their mouths to allow veterinary dentists access to cleanings. Anesthesia ensures that the animal will remain still and the vet can remove any plaque and tartar that has built up. If a tooth needs to be extracted, sedation ensures that everything will go well.

Since anesthesia will be used, veterinarians will often perform lab work and an EKG to determine if an animal is healthy enough to receive anesthesia. Pre-testing also helps the veterinarian make the best decisions about what types of anesthetics to administer and in what amounts.

The veterinarian will perform a thorough examination of the animal’s mouth, noting any abnormalities. A dental probe is often used to assess bleeding gums and detect pockets in the gums where food can accumulate and potentially lead to cavities.

After the exam, VCA Hospitals says a teeth scaling will be performed, using ultrasonic and manual scalers to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. The teeth will then be polished to remove any microscopic scratches that can snag bacteria and lead to further buildup.

Throughout the procedure, a pet’s vital signs are monitored and IV fluids are administered to ensure the animal’s comfort and safety. Before the animal comes out of anesthesia, dental X-rays may also be taken to check for problems not visible to the naked eye. The animal will also be monitored after anesthesia in the recovery room.

When the animal is released to go home, it is important that pet owners follow up on dental cleanings. Do not use toothpaste designed for humans, as there are special products that are safe for animals for this purpose. Depending on what was done during the cleaning, the vet may prescribe antibiotics and/or painkillers.

Dental cleanings are an important component of general pet care. Consult a veterinarian to learn more about dental cleanings for pets.

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