Plaque is a colorless film composed of bacteria, proteins, sugars, white blood cells, minerals, and water. It forms naturally and continuously on the teeth and gums. Invisible to the unaided eye for days or weeks, plaque accumulation may lead to bad breath, pain, infection, and tooth loss.
As plaque builds up, the gums become red and swollen. Pockets of infection may form around the roots of the teeth. After mixing with food particles and minerals in saliva, some of the plaque will harden as it dries. This hard deposit is called tartar, and like plaque it can contribute to gum disease.
Untreated tooth and gum disease may allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys. All pets are at risk for developing these kinds of dental problems. By the age of three, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of gum disease.
Don't wait for these signs: bad breath, a yellow-brown crust of tartar around the gum line, pain or bleeding when the pet eats or when you touch its gums - start a preventative program now.
Since all pets are at risk for developing dental disease, we perform comprehensive dental exams during every wellness visit. This gives our veterinarians a chance to check your pet's teeth and gums for symptoms of dental disease and make an assessment on your pet's dental health. Typically, we recommend dental cleanings every one to two years to effectively prevent dental disease and protect your pet from the painful infections it causes.
Complete dental health cannot be assessed without the help of dental radiographs. More than half of your pet's teeth are below the gum line. This means painful oral conditions may be left unseen during an exam! At South Putnam Animal Hospital, we use dental radiography to detect jaw and tooth fractures, abnormal roots, tumors, abnormal, missing, or dead teeth, and foreign objects lodged in the gums.
It is recommended that your pet have a comprehensive physical examination and pre-anesthetic blood testing prior to his or her dental procedure. Your pet's age and extent of dental disease will determine which type of testing is warranted. Some tests allow us to draw the blood the morning of the procedure in-house. Other tests need to be sent out to a diagnostic laboratory for diagnosis. If this is the case, we need to have your pet come in for blood to be drawn at least 2 days prior to the procedure. Bloodwork is deemed current up to six weeks from the date performed; otherwise repeat testing would be warranted.
Dental procedures are performed on weekdays. Your pet will need to be admitted to the hospital between 8:30-9:00am the morning of his or her appointment. Food should be withheld after 8:30pm the night before the procedure. Allow free access to water.
Your pet will be under general anesthesia during the dental procedure. We use modern gas anesthetic techniques and monitoring equipment to make the anesthesia as safe as possible. Patients will also be given IV fluids during the procedure.
During the procedure, each healthy tooth will be cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler and then polished. The infected, loose, or damaged teeth will be extracted. We will do our best to provide you with an accurate estimate of extractions prior to the procedure. Please know that there is often a chance of disease that is not detectable during a routine oral examination that may alter the number of extractions needed. Usually your pet is able to be discharged the same day. We ask that you call us after 3:00pm for an update and a discharge time.
Specific aftercare instructions will be given to you when you pick up your pet. We recommend that an at-home dental care routine be continued to help prevent future plaque and tartar build-up. If possible, brush your pet's teeth once a day. If you can't fit daily brushing into your schedule or if your pet is less tolerant, aim to brush your pet's teeth a few times a week. Be sure to use a pet-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste. Human toothpaste can be toxic to pets! If your pet is resistant to at-home brushing, we can recommend alternative options, such as dental treats, dental chews, dental rinses, and science diets.