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What is a Dental Prophylaxis?

Good dental health is an important part of your pet’s overall well being.  An unhealthy mouth can lead to any number of medical problems from simple bad breath to severe mouth pain and illnesses like kidney and heart disease. The experienced veterinary dentists and dental technicians at Ingersoll Animal Hospital in Des Moines believe that prevention is key, and as such we provide a wide a number of veterinary dental care services for our patients to help keep your pet’s mouth healthy and pain free.

What is involved in a dental treatment or cleaning?

Your pet will be fasted from the evening before for the anesthesia. Preanesthetic blood work is always recommended. Our veterinarians will perform a preanesthetic exam and an IV catheter will be placed to administer fluids during the procedure.  Your dog or cat will be administered an appropriate preanesthetic medication prior to the anesthetic procedureYour pet will then be given a short acting agent to place your pet under anesthesia and then a gas anesthetic is given to maintain a proper anesthetic level.

A true dental treatment or cleaning consists of several steps, some more critical than others. The required steps that must be performed include:

  1. Remove calculus above the gum line: This is least important step but the most visible to pet owners.
  2. Remove calculus below the gum line: This is the thorough cleaning of the area under the gum line to remove disease-causing bacteria. It is typically performed by hand and is time consuming, but it is the most important step of a dental prophylaxis. Three possible steps may be involved: Subgingival scaling (calculus removal), root planing (smoothing rough surfaces), and/or subgingival curettage (soft tissue debridement of the inside of a gingival pocket).
  3. Polishing: Scaling slightly roughens the teeth. This promotes plaque and calculus attachment and reduces the lasting effect of the cleaning, so the teeth are polished afterward. There has been some controversy about this in human dentistry, due to the loss of enamel with many cleanings over time. However, in veterinary dentistry, with relatively fewer cleanings in an animal’s life, this is not a concern.
  4. Sulcal Lavage: Cleaning and polishing results in debris being caught under the gum line, which must be thoroughly rinsed out.
  5. Oral Exam, Periodontal Probing and Dental Charting: This is a critical and often misunderstood part of the dental prophylaxis. There are teeth that cannot be thoroughly examined in a pet who is awake, when periodontal probing is not possible. With the patient under anesthesia, the mouth is thoroughly and systematically examined, and all findings are noted on a dental chart. Any diseased teeth or tissues are then properly treated.
  6. Sealant Application: We then apply  a barrier sealant to help slow down plaque accumulation.
  7. Complimentary Recheck: Performed ~14 days post procedure is included when indicated especially with extractions and advanced procedures.

Pain management is always an important part of your pet’s Dental Procedure

We use several options to help make your pet as comfortable as possible with their dental procedure.  We use local nerve blocks, injectable pain medications and oral pain medicines that can be dispensed for continued pain control at home.

Why does a dental cleaning have to be done under anesthesia?

It is impossible to do a thorough cleaning, take dental radiographs and do definitive oral examination (including periodontal probing) on a pet who is awake.  Think how long it takes for your teeth to be cleaned when you are cooperating!

What about the risks of anesthesia?

Though very small, anesthesia is a very real risk for dogs and cats, just as it is for humans. At Ingersoll Animal Hospital we take care to further reduce the risks of anesthesia by following a proactive protocol to assess our patients and monitor their care throughout the dental procedure, including pre-anesthetic testing, inhalant gas, electronic monitoring, and intravenous fluids.

We recommend pre-surgical blood work for each of our patients prior to placing them under anesthesia. This is a check on the overall health of the pet to make sure that liver, kidney, and blood counts are within normal ranges and to reduce any risks possible prior to the anesthesia. Our dental team monitors each patient throughout the dental procedure to ensure the patient is responding appropriately to the anesthesia. We use very safe anesthetics and monitor your pet for any adverse reactions as they recover.

Please remember, the adverse effects of bad teeth on the overall health of the pet greatly outweigh the anesthetic risk.

Does my pet have to stay overnight after the dental procedure?

Generally, routine dental treatments are an outpatient procedure. Patients check-in between 7 am and 8 am. The procedure is performed in the late morning to early afternoon. Patients are typically ready to return home after 4 pm the same day.

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