Oral health is vital to your pet’s health and quality of life. Dental disease is a very common problem in pets and is mostly determined by a pet’s individual genetics; current statistics report that 75% of cats and dogs over the age of three have significant dental disease. At CAMC, we recognize how important oral health is to your pet, not only for their comfort but also for their general health; we perform thorough oral assessments during your pet’s annual or semi-annual wellness exams, and discuss with you an oral health plan that will keep your pets teeth and gums as healthy as possible for years to come.

Why is it important to have my pet under anesthesia for a dental cleaning?
Anesthesia-free, or “sedation” dentistry is not recommended and is more dangerous than general anesthesia for several reasons: First, in sedation dentistry, the trachea (windpipe) and lungs are not protected from the particles disrupted during the cleaning process. If breathed in, your pet can develop pneumonia from the bacteria in these particles. Second, sharp instruments are used to examine, clean, and treat problems in the mouth. It is vital that your pet be still during this process and not feel afraid or painful. Lastly, full-mouth dental x-rays are an essential component of your pet’s oral health assessment, and dental x-rays can only be taken when a pet under general anesthesia.

What is involved in a dental cleaning?
The first step is a thorough systematic exam. Even in the calmest pet, this cannot be properly done without general anesthesia. All teeth are checked with manual and instrument probing for cracks, wear, discoloration, and mobility. The gum tissue is also examined for evidence of infection, cancerous growths, benign growths, bleeding, and any pockets around each tooth. Next, the teeth are scaled above and below the gum line (supra-gingival and sub-gingival scaling) with an ultrasonic scaler and by hand. Scaling creates divots and rough patches on the tooth surface enamel. If left un-polished, plaque can develop quickly after a cleaning, so all teeth are polished. Sulcal lavage is then performed to rinse out any debris that could be caught under the gum line.

Why are dental x-rays important in every animal?
At CAMC, we take full-mouth digital dental x-rays on every pet receiving a dental cleaning treatment. This is because only half of the tooth is visible on the surface, and there is no way to examine the rest of the tooth or surrounding bone without taking full mouth x-rays. 50% of dental problems would be left unidentified and untreated without x-rays. Also, in severely diseased teeth and gums where extractions may be necessary, x-rays are vital in planning the surgical extraction process and ensuring that the entire root is removed. In some cases, tooth roots that are incompletely removed can lead to pain and infection. Even the most confident veterinary dentists double check the success of a tooth extraction with an x-ray.