Dental treatment for your pet — what should you know as a carer?

Dental treatment for your pet — what should you know as a carer?

The prophylactic dental procedure for dogs and cats, popularly known as oral sanitation, is one of the most commonly performed procedures under general anaesthesia (along with neutering or sterilisation). A popular opinion among Pet Guardians is that only tartar is removed during such a procedure. This is most often the case, but it should be borne in mind that, if necessary, the procedure can also include many other procedures.

A properly performed dog or cat dental procedure must take place under anaesthesia, i.e. under general anaesthesia. The patient must have a prior appointment with the veterinary surgeon, qualifying the patient for the procedure. You should come to the qualifying appointment with your pet, who should necessarily be fasting for about 8-10 h.

Preparation for surgery (qualification)

During the qualifying visit, the doctor carries out a general examination to determine the health status of the pet and establishes the preliminary scope of the procedure with the Guardian. He or she then draws blood for tests (morphology, basic biochemical parameters, and often a check of thyroid parameters), so the pet should be fasting for approximately 8-10 hours before the visit.

In some cases, additional diagnostics are needed (e.g. ordering specialist consultations, ECG, heart echo, chest X-ray, abdominal ultrasound, urinalysis). How extensive the diagnostics are to be is decided each time by the veterinarian, taking into account the individual parameters concerning the animal: its current state of health, chronic diseases (if it suffers from such) or its age.

All this is done in order for the anaesthetist to implement the safest possible general anaesthetic protocol during the procedure. It is very important to abolish any pain that may occur when the pet returns home. During the procedure, in addition to the use of general acting drugs, local blocks are performed in the oral cavity, just as in the dental surgery in humans.

Stages of oral sanitation:

1. Examination of the patient before anaesthesia.

2. Examination of the entire oral cavity in a patient under general anaesthesia: teeth, gums, tongue, throat, occlusion.

3. taking the necessary x-rays of the teeth.

In cats, it is advisable to take x-rays of all the teeth. In dogs, we may perform x-rays only of teeth «irregular» during the examination — with deepened gingival groove (this is the gap located in the area of the tooth neck, during the examination its depth is measured, in dogs up to 3-4 mm, in cats 1-2 mm), exposed root bifurcation, crown fracture, suspicion of periapical abscess.

4 Removal of calculus.

At this stage, supragingival and subgingival deposits are removed. Hand instruments and popular scalers, primarily piezoelectric, are used. With the aid of ultrasound, their tip oscillates, causing fragments of deposits to be detached from the tooth surface.

5. carrying out therapeutic procedures, if necessary (tooth extraction, periodontal procedures, collection of material for histopathological and microbiological tests, endodontic procedures).

The decision to carry out most of these procedures is usually made while the patient is already under anaesthesia, after X-rays have been taken and larger deposits have been removed. We must be prepared for the fact that the extent of the procedure may be greater than originally thought.

6 Polishing of tooth crowns.

After the removal of tartar, the surface of tooth crowns is rough; leaving it in this state would accelerate the re-deposition of bacteria and the formation of deposits. Therefore, always after scaling the crowns of the teeth, they are polished. This is done using special rubber cups on a slow-speed tip into which the polishing paste is scooped.

7 Rinsing the mouth with antiseptic chlorhexidine solution.

After the removal of tartar, any deposits and polishing, a great deal of residue collects in the mouth, so the rinsing stage is essential.

After tooth extractions or treatment (practically in any situation except scaling), the doctor also dispenses painkillers, which should be administered by the Carer at home (usually for 3 to 5 days). If necessary — the doctor also administers antibiotics.

When to carry out a dental procedure on a dog or cat?

The procedure should be opted for if the animal suffers from oral disease or if a large amount of plaque has already built up, which cannot be removed by brushing (in some cases — due to the temperament of the animal — brushing is not possible at all). Also when the animal refuses to take food because of pain in the oral area. Such situations are common, but we must remember that the animal suffers much longer before we as caregivers can notice it. Therefore, regular check-ups with the veterinarian, who will decide in due course whether to carry out surgery, are essential.

Choice of doctor

When choosing a practitioner to carry out the procedure, it is advisable to go for one who specialises in veterinary dentistry (has a wide range of knowledge of oral diseases, uses advanced treatment techniques and has specialised equipment) or a practitioner who is experienced in removing tartar in animals. This minimises the risks associated with the procedure.

Recommendations after treatment

After the procedure, the doctor makes recommendations for home oral hygiene and subsequent checks. For young and healthy animals, such checks generally do not need to be carried out more than once a year. However, there are exceptions to this rule. The breed is not irrelevant here. Short-skinned dogs and cats (and therefore those with a shortened muzzle and dogs of miniature breeds) usually require more frequent checks. This is due to the anatomical structure of the skull of one and the other. During the formation process of the respective breeds, the skull bones are considerably shortened and reduced, which does not go hand in hand with the dentition, which remains «normal» in size and number. This results in numerous malocclusions, a predisposition to persistent deciduous dentition, missing teeth or excessive tartar deposition. Older animals and those that have had oral treatment require more frequent checks — usually once every six months.

With good oral hygiene at home (brushing at least 3 times a week), an oral decontamination procedure is sufficient to be carried out once every few years. It improves oral health and eliminates pain only for as long as the pet carers are meticulous in following the doctor’s recommendations.

The key is to take care of oral health on a daily basis at home, i.e. brushing or, if this is not possible, using enzyme pastes (without brushing) and giving the animal snacks to help wear away tartar.

lek. wet. Monika Gładysz-Kmieć

2 февраля 2022