Periodontal disease is one of the most common problems in dogs and cats despite the fact that it is easily preventable. Some statistics show as high as 85% of all pets suffer from some form of oral disease. Preventive dental exams and cleanings are key to avoiding infection and disease which may progress to other organ systems in the body. Liver, kidney, and heart valve infections are commonly secondary to periodontal disease.
Brushing your pet’s teeth and using oral care products prevent and delay the onset of problems with the teeth and gums. Eventually however, a professional cleaning will be needed to remove plaque and tartar that these measures miss. Ultrasonic scaling followed by high-speed polishing is the most effective method of dental prophylaxis. It is performed under a general anesthetic.
Before anesthesia, blood work is assessed to screen for underlying organ dysfunction which may need to be addressed or may change the anesthetic protocol. Antibiotics are often prescribed before a dental cleaning to prevent systemic infection when bacteria enter the bloodstream through inflamed gum tissue. The pet is intubated with an endotracheal tube after induction of anesthesia. This measure prevents aspiration of water and cleaning solutions into the lungs.
An ultrasonic scaler is a powered scraper attached to a hand piece that removes concrete hard calculus (tartar). The end of the scaler oscillates at around 25 thousand cycles per second. This is so fast that the eye cannot detect the vibration, but tartar is blasted away easily. Tartar is so hard and firmly attached to the tooth enamel that brushing will not remove it. It harbors millions of bacteria that can invade the gums.
A gingival probe is used to measure and explore pockets around the teeth if they have occurred. Loose teeth are extracted at this point. Endodontic procedures (root canals and crowns) are performed only by specialists and referral for these procedures is usually necessary.
After scaling, a high-speed polisher is used to remove microscopic defects in the enamel’s surface. It is the tiny pores in the enamel that gives a foot hold for tartar formation. Polishing can slow new tartar development significantly.
Fluoride treatment is the final step in a professional dental cleaning. Fluoride binds with enamel and strengthens it, preventing tooth decay in the future.
Antibiotics may be continued after a dental prophylaxis for several days to prevent infection.