10 Steps to a Healthy Mouth – Pet Dentistry

By May 26, 2014Blog
Pet dentistry - 10 Steps to a Healthy Mouth

Pet dentistry is an important veterinary health care service at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital. Did you know that 85% of adult dogs and cats have some form of dental disease? Periodontal disease is the number one disease of pets today. It is a diagnosis common to all pets, in all age groups, becoming more advanced as pets get older.

We can assume that dental disease causes pets significant chronic pain, just as it does in people. Yet it is very preventable. Factors that influence the development of oral disease include genetics, diet, and home care. At Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital we know that periodic professional dental cleanings coupled with home dental care is a critical element of total healthcare for our pets.

Ten steps to a healthy mouth

1. Physical examination

Every animal we see has an examination of the mouth performed as part of the general physical examination. We can see if there is obvious disease in the mouth. We will grade the severity of the dental disease to give us a rough idea of what we may need to do during a dental procedure. It is difficult to fully examine the mouth of an awake pet and we can only see the crowns of the teeth, NOT the roots. We may find more problems during the dental procedure and in this case we will call you to discuss our findings and give you an exact cost for the procedure.

2. Preoperative bloodwork and examination

Any pet that receives general anesthesia at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital gets a full physical examination on the day of surgery and blood tests are performed to make sure he or she will be able to process the anesthetic.

3. General anesthesia with iv fluids

Dentistry requires an animal to be under a general anesthetic. Intravenous fluids given during anesthesia help pets return home sooner. The patient is anesthetized and anesthetic monitors are placed. A veterinary technician closely monitors the patient during the dental procedure.

4. Intraoral Radiology

We perform x-rays of the teeth for all patients undergoing a dental procedure. The only way to accurately evaluate the whole tooth is to x-ray. The crown is the only portion of the tooth visible-the root of the tooth is embedded in a socket in the jaw bone. In many cases the crown of the tooth may appear normal, but an x-ray of the tooth may reveal a problem with the root that requires treatment. Once all of the teeth in the mouth have been x-rayed, Dr. Ashby reviews the x-rays and decides on what therapy is required for each tooth.

Dental X-rays

We use a dental x-ray camera to x-ray each tooth. The x-ray is then read by the attending veterinarian.

Dentistry - Healthy lower teeth on dogs lower jawbone

Here is an x-ray of a dog’s lower jaw showing healthy normal teeth

Dentistry - Dog with severe dental disease

This is an x-ray of a dog with severe dental disease. You can see that the bone around the roots of the teeth has receded away from the tooth roots. These teeth will need to be removed.


Dentistry - Xray before tooth extractionDentistry - Xray after tooth extraction

Once we have removed the affected teeth we take another x-ray to make sure that all of the roots have been removed and there is no damage to the jaw bone.

5. Scaling.

Scaling is the process where the tartar is removed from the teeth. Tartar is produced by bacteria that live on the teeth. Tartar causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and this leads to recession of the gums, exposure of the tooth roots and eventually loss of the tooth. We remove the tartar with a combination of an ultrasonic scaler and hand scaling (just like the human dental hygienists). Removal of the tartar on the teeth is vital to improving the health of the mouth and it also removes the source of the patient’s halitosis (bad breath).

Dentistry - removing tartar from a cat's teeth

 The ultrasonic scaler is being used to remove tartar from the cat’s teeth

6.  Periodontal probing

Once the teeth have been scaled the veterinarian examines each tooth individually with a periodontal probe. We use the probe to look for pockets. Pockets are caused by the gum losing its attachment to the tooth. Bacteria and tartar can accumulate in the pocket causing the wall of the tooth socket to erode and this leads to loosening of the tooth in the socket and eventually this leads to tooth loss. A small pocket may be cleaned and flushed, but a deep pocket usually requires that the affected tooth is removed.

Dentistry - probing periodontal pockets on a cat

A periodontal probe is being used to detect periodontal pockets in this cat


The combination of radiology and periodontal probing allows us to accurately diagnose any problems with the teeth and formulate a treatment plan. We use a special chart to record our findings and treatments for each tooth.

The dental chart in our software is used to accurately record findings and treatments.

Pet Dental chart

8. Extractions

If we decide that a tooth cannot be saved, it will be extracted. The first step is to place a local anesthetic block to block the tooth. Even though the patient is under an anesthetic removing a tooth can cause pain and the local block gives the patient immediate pain relief and the effect lasts for several hours to offer the patient post operative comfort. Once the block has taken effect, we elevate a flap of gum tissue to expose the jaw bone. A drill is used to cut the tooth into sections to allow for easier removal. The tooth is removed using instruments called elevators. Once the tooth is removed the socket is cleaned. A post extraction x-ray is taken to make sure that all of the roots have been removed. Once we have confirmed that there are no tooth root remnants, we close over the socket using the gum flap. This prevents food from becoming lodged in the empty socket. The flap is sutured with a fine absorbable suture.

Dentistry - administering local anesthetic to a dog

A local anesthetic block is being placed prior to removal of the tooth with the exposed roots.

Dentistry - gingival flap being sutured

The tooth has been removed and a gingival flap is sutured over the socket.

9. Healthymouth

We rinse the mouth with Healthymouth, a natural product with VOHC certification for reducing plaque.

10. Post operative care

We will give specific post operative instructions. This may include soft food and no toothbrushing for a few days. We will discuss treatment options designed to reduce the accumulation of tartar on the teeth. The treatment options may include a combination of toothbrushing, special dental diets and Healthymouth rinses, gels, and water additives.

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