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My pet is scheduled to have their teeth cleaned. What should I expect?

This is a question we are asked often. We know it can be scary to drop off your pet for an anesthetic procedure for the day. It is our goal to ease and educate worried minds and to ensure our pet parents know their fuzzy family members are in excellent hands with experienced Veterinarians and Technicians tending to your pet's every need during their hospital stay. We  have outlined here what you can expect during your pet's big day; whether it's a routine cleaning or a more complicated dentistry with extractions and oral surgery, we will walk you through the process each time.

Each pet’s dental prophylaxis visit (also called “prophy” or “cleaning”) is different, as each mouth has its own unique characteristics, just like your pet itself. A dental prophylaxis includes a thorough oral exam and cleaning of not only the visible tooth surfaces, but also assessment and cleaning of the surfaces under the gum. For your pet’s safety and comfort, and to ensure a thorough cleaning and assessment is performed, even the most cooperative pet needs to be anesthetized for this procedure.

When you and your pet arrive to our hospital the morning of the appointment, he or she will have been fasted (withheld from food) for at least 8 hours to ensure that their stomach is empty. This is a safety precaution for all anesthetic procedures. A Receptionist will greet you, check your pet in, and you will be given pre-anesthetic authorization paperwork to fill out. The dental Technician will review the paperwork with you, outline your pet’s day, and answer any further questions you have about the procedure.

Your pet will be taken to the treatment area where they are made a warm fluffy bed in a kennel in which they will rest comfortably before and after their procedure. A pre-anesthetic exam is then performed by the Veterinarian and if a blood panel was elected on your intake form, the sample will be collected and run in our in-house laboratory. Once the Veterinarian completes their exam and reviews the bloodwork, they will create an anesthetic plan tailored for your pet. A pre-surgical pain injection is given to help calm your pet before anesthesia and to aid in pain control during and after the procedure. While the injection is given time to work, the Technician sets up the work space and chooses tools appropriate for your pet's size and breed. An intravenous (IV) catheter is placed in your pet’s leg vein to administer anesthesia and any fluids or medications necessary during the procedure.

A short acting IV sedative is then given so that we may place an endotracheal tube into your pet’s trachea to administer gas anesthesia and oxygen during the procedure and to prevent your pet from aspirating any fluids or saliva during the cleaning. Your pet will be wrapped in special heating pads and warm blankets to keep their body temperature stable during anesthesia. A digital monitor is attached to your pet to take regular readings of blood pressure, blood oxygenation, temperature and heart activity. Your pet is continuously monitored by the Technician and a dedicated Assistant through the entirety of the procedure.

To begin the prophy, the dental Technician assesses the entire oral cavity. They are looking at your pet’s teeth alignment, number of teeth, and for any obvious problems, oral masses or foreign objects. Next, any large accumulations of tartar may be preemptively removed with a special tool and each tooth is examined one by one with a periodontal probe, measuring the depth of the gum line and looking for pockets that may need medical attention. Any defects are noted and recorded for each tooth. Then the Technician will take dental x-rays of the entire mouth, section by section, capturing both the visible crown and the root tips that we cannot see beneath the gum line. Having gathered all of this information, the Technician will review the findings with the Veterinarian and they will create a treatment plan. At that time the Veterinarian will contact you to review the plan with you and obtain authorization for the recommended procedures.

The dental cleaning can now be performed. Each tooth is scaled with an ultrasonic scaler and then hand scaled from the crown (the visible area) to the subgingival area (under the gum line) until all tartar is removed. After ultrasonic scaling, the teeth are polished. This is a very important part of the prophy, as the scaling process makes microscopic scratches on the tooth's surface that new tartar could easily attach to if they are not buffed out with the polish.

After the mouth is free of tartar and flushed clean of tartar debris and contaminants, any necessary oral surgery or extractions will be performed. At this time any other abnormalities found during the oral exam are addressed and treated. If you elect to have Oravet Barrier Sealant applied to slow the buildup of tartar, this will be done as the last step in your pet's procedure.

The duration of each dental prophy procedure will vary, but most will last between 1 - 4 hours. Once the anesthetic gas is turned off, your pet will start to slowly wake up. Upon waking and once they are able to swallow easily on their own, the endotracheal tube is removed and your pet will be relocated to their comfortable kennel to recover. During recovery we will call to let you know how everything went and schedule a pick-up time for your pet to go home. As your pet recovers we want to continue to monitor them for about 4 hours to ensure a full recovery. The intravenous catheter is removed once your pet is fully recovered and ready to go home. At the scheduled pick-up time we will review all findings, x-rays, medications and post-anesthetic care with you.

Thank you for doing your part in keeping your pet’s teeth clean and healthy. Good oral care is vital to your pet’s overall health and longevity. We appreciate your trust in us and for allowing us to be part of your pet’s healthcare family.