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Small Animal Dentistry
Cleaning and Polishing
Small animal dentistry has evolved significantly over the years, and so has our approach to treatment. Calculus (tartar) buildup and other oral concerns can have a negative effect on your pet's overall health and life expectancy. While preventing buildup is the best approach, we recognize that a periodic anesthetized cleaning is appropriate for most pets. Your pet will be placed under general anesthesia, with vital signs monitored closely. A complete oral examination will be performed, including measurement of gingival pockets and recession, followed by cleaning with an ultrasonic scaler and thorough polishing. When periodontal disease or other abnormal conditions are present, the use of intraoral x-rays is vital to give our veterinarians a clear picture of the condition of your pet's teeth.
The use of intraoral x-rays as a means of diagnosing your pet's dental condition is an exciting and vital tool that has had a major impact on our treatment approach. Full mouth x-rays regularly result in the identification of problems that are not noticable to the naked eye, such as tooth root abcess, bone attachment loss, and resorbing teeth (see below).
Figure A (Below) - An example of a dog's lower molars (teeth 409, 410 and 411 shown here) that have experienced significant bone attachment loss (red arrows). Visually, the patient appeared relatively normal with just a minor amount of gum recession. Left unaddressed, bone loss in this particular area can lead to a mandibular fracture.
Figure B (Below) - An example of a cat with Tooth Resorption. The blue arrow points to a tooth that, visually, appeared to be missing as the gums were completely healed over the site. The red arrow points to a tooth that has experience complete separation of the back root, though visually, the tooth appeared normal.
Though the cause is unknown, many cats, and some dogs, suffer from a condition called tooth resorption (formerly referred to as Feline Odontoclastic Resorbing Lesions or FORL). The outer surfaces of the enamel on the crown, or the cementum on the root (or both) erode in one or more places, exposing nerves and creating significant discomfort. At the most advanced stage, tooth resorption can cause the tooth roots to become indistinct from the healthy mandible or maxilla bone surrounding it. When this is the case, that normal transition is left intact and just the crown of the tooth is removed. If that process has not begun, a more typical extraction is performed. This condition is one of the many reasons why intraoral x-rays are vital to a successful diagnosis and treatment.
Our veterinarians perform extractions when necessary and are equipped for the following:
In cases where an otherwise healthy tooth has experienced minor enamel trauma, our veterinarians can apply a bonded sealant to the tooth to repair that trauma, protect the exposed dentin, and return the outside of the tooth to a smooth surface that will make plaque and calculus buildup more difficult.
We take a proactive approach to addressing the likelihood for pain during and after dental procedures. Our pre-medication protocol includes medications designed to provide pain relief as well as the intitial sedation required to induce general anesthesia. For all regular cleaning and treatment procedures, your pet must be under general anesthesia and will be kept at a level that balances safety, pain relief, and our ability to work. When extractions or other procedures are involved, regional nerve blocks (numbing) are also performed, allowing more extensive treatments to be performed without increasing general anesthetic depth. Before treatments begin, your pet is given an injection of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), and will be sent home with several days of oral medication for pain relief.
At times, an alternatives to extraction of a tooth include a root canal, vital pulpotomy, orthodontics, or crown therapy. While we do not offer those services, we are happy to provide a referral for your pet if you wish.