Dental disease is common in pets, affecting approximately 80% of dogs and 70% of cats by the time they are 3 years of age. The causative bacteria can result in significant health complications for your pet, and veterinary dental care is necessary to protect their health, and to help extend their life. Our Billings Animal Family Hospital team tailors a dental care plan based on your pet’s needs, and we explain the steps involved in a typical professional veterinary dental cleaning, so you know what to expect when you schedule an appointment.

#1: We assess your pet’s overall health

In addition to causing problems, such as bad breath, swollen gums, and loose teeth, the bacteria that causes dental disease can enter your pet’s bloodstream and damage organs throughout their body. This means that before addressing issues in your pet’s mouth, we must first assess their overall health. To do this we:

  • Take a thorough history — We ask you to provide information about your pet’s medical history, including any recent signs and reactions to medications or anesthetics.
  • Perform a comprehensive physical exam — We check your pet from nose to tail, including listening to their heart and lungs, to ensure no abnormalities are present.
  • Run blood work — Our team performs a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile to check for issues such as infection, anemia, diabetes, electrolyte imbalances, kidney disease, and liver dysfunction.
  • Recommend other diagnostics — In certain cases, we may recommend other diagnostics, such as chest X-rays or an ultrasound of your pet’s heart, if we detected abnormalities on their physical examination.

#2: We anesthetize your pet

General anesthesia is necessary to perform a thorough professional veterinary dental cleaning, because:

  • Sharp instruments are used — We use sharp instruments to assess your pet’s mouth and clean their teeth that can injure your pet’s mouth if your pet is not anesthetized.
  • We don’t want your pet to be stressed — Being in a strange place, surrounded by people they don’t know who are looking in their mouth can be stressful for your pet, and being anesthetized helps prevent fear and anxiety.
  • Pets don’t say “Ahhh” — When you go to the dentist, you open your mouth willingly for the dental technician to do their job, but most pets aren’t comfortable with people handling their mouth. We anesthetize your pet, so our team can thoroughly and efficiently perform the assessment and cleaning.

#3: We X-ray pet’s mouth

The bacteria that cause dental disease invade under your pet’s gum line and can damage the supporting tooth structures, which cannot be visualized when performing an oral examination. Therefore, X-rays are necessary to check for issues such as:

  • Tooth root abscesses
  • Bone loss
  • Fractured teeth
  • Dead teeth
  • Tooth resorption lesions
  • Jaw fractures

Without this information, our team cannot formulate an appropriate strategy to address your pet’s dental health needs.

#4: Your pet’s mouth is thoroughly examined

Once your pet is safely anesthetized, we thoroughly examine their oral cavity, including their lymph nodes, salivary glands, tongue, mucosal tissue, and gums. In addition, we probe around every tooth to check for abnormally deep pockets, which helps us determine the degree of dental disease. We chart these findings so we can develop an appropriate treatment strategy for each tooth. If a tooth is severely diseased, we may recommend an extraction to prevent future complications.

#5: Your pet’s teeth are cleaned

Using ultrasonic equipment and hand held tools, we remove the plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth, and thoroughly clean under their gum line, where the bacteria cause the most problems. 

#6: Your pet’s teeth are polished

Removing plaque and tartar leaves micro etchings on your pet’s teeth, so we polish the teeth to ensure no rough edges are left where bacteria can easily accumulate. 

#7: Your pet’s mouth is irrigated

After the cleaning, we thoroughly irrigate your pet’s mouth to remove debris and ensure their teeth are completely clean. We may also apply fluoride or a dental sealant to help discourage plaque buildup.

#8: An at-home dental care plan is instigated for your pet

At-home dental care is critical to keep your pet’s mouth healthy between professional veterinary dental cleanings and can also extend the time between the cleanings. Protect your pet’s mouth by providing an appropriate healthy diet free from sugary treats, table scraps, or hard chew toys (e.g., hooves, bones, antlers) that may damage your pet’s teeth and gums. Daily toothbrushing is the best way to promote your pet’s oral hygiene. Ensure you use pet-specific toothpaste, since human dental products can be toxic to pets. Other pet dental care products we recommend include:

  • Hill’s Prescription Dental Care Chews for dogs 
  • DuoClenz Enzyme Coated Dental Chews for dogs 
  • Tartar Shield Cat Treats 
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d

Most pets need a professional veterinary dental cleaning about once a year, but certain pets, including toy-breed dogs and brachycephalic pets, may need more frequent assessments. Contact our Billings Animal Family Hospital team, so we can evaluate your pet for dental disease and determine an appropriate dental care regimen for your pet.