Despite the best of efforts, most pets can benefit from having a dentistry performed at some point in their life.  In fact, you should plan for your pet to require a dental cleaning every 1-2 years after 3 years of age (this may vary between animals).  But what really happens when you drop your furry friend off for this procedure?

1. General anesthesia
In order for your veterinarian to provide the best care for your pet full anesthesia is required.  An awake animal will not tolerate a thorough cleaning and full examination of the mouth.  The veterinarian customizes a safe anesthetic protocol for each individual pet.  Anyone who claims to be able to perform this procedure without anesthesia likely does not have your pet’s best interest at heart.
2. Thorough oral exam and charting
The mouth and each tooth are extensively examined, a procedure that is impossible to fully do in a conscious animal.  Dental radiographs (x-rays) are often taken in order to identify problems with teeth that may appear normal on the surface.  Periodontal probing helps to identify disease.  Any concerns are noted on your animal’s dental chart and diseased tissues or teeth addressed.
4. Extractions and Surgical Treatments
Any diseased teeth or tissues identified during the examination and dental x-ray process will be addressed.  This may involve removing teeth that cannot be saved or that are causing your pet problems.
3. Scaling
Plaque and tartar is removed from above and below the gumline.  Cleaning the subgingival tooth (below the gumline) is vital to remove disease-causing bacteria.
4. Polishing
Scaling the teeth creates a slightly rough surface where plaque and calculus can accumulate.  Polishing smooths the tooth surface in order to make the effects of your pet’s dental cleaning last longer.
5. Additional treatments
Your veterinarian will apply a fluoride treatment in order to help keep your pet’s teeth healthy longer.  Other treatments such as the application of a barrier sealant may also be performed if deemed appropriate for your pet.

Most dental procedures are outpatient procedures.  Your veterinarian will provide instructions regarding home dental care and future recommendations. Once you bring your pet home you may be instructed to feed softer food for several days or administer medication for pain or infection at home.  Your pet may be a little groggy from the anesthesia for 24 hours or so, but should be back to normal fairly quickly.  It is natural to be a little nervous about any medical procedure, but understanding the process helps to make it a little less scary.  By allowing dentistry to be performed you can improve the quality and length of your pet’s life.