To do a full and proper dental cleaning on your pet, they are placed under an anesthetic. Cleaning cannot be done adequately on an awake animal because unlike people; pets will not sit still while we scale and polish their teeth. We are also using instruments that are sharp and sudden movements may cause injury. As well, many pets have severe problems in their mouth that can be painful to address, so it is better for them to be asleep while we work.
Once the animal is asleep, the scaling begins. Each surface of the tooth is cleaned of tartar buildup. Specialized instruments are used to clean tartar under the gum line. Once the tartar is removed, each tooth is measured and checked for pockets. Pockets are areas under the gum line where the gingiva has pulled away from the tooth and created a “pocket” where bacteria can accumulate and cause infection. Once the tartar is removed, any areas where the tooth roots are exposed due to gingival recession can be visualized. As well any fractured or loose teeth can be identified. The tongue, cheeks and gums are also checked for any abnormalities.
Dental X-rays or radiographs are taken at this point to help identify any problem areas under the gum line. Two-thirds of the tooth exists under the gums where they cannot be visualized. Dental radiographs help to identify any problems with tooth roots, pockets of infection, fractures, resorptive lesions, or tumours that may be present. They support the Veterinarian decide if any teeth need to be extracted or removed.
Once any problem areas are dealt with each tooth is polished. The act of scaling the teeth can create microscopic scratches on the surface of the tooth where bacteria may hide away in the future. Polishing the teeth smooths out these scratches and prevents bacteria from adhering to the tooth, making it more difficult for tartar to come back.
After a cleaning, your pet will enjoy fresh breath and a pain-free mouth. Many owners describe their pet has a renewed lease on life after a dental cleaning.
Written by Monica Blanchard, RVT