Sunday, 21 February 2016

Behind the scenes: Dog Dental

Dogs and cats come in for dentistry for a variety of reasons – from just needing a cleaning, to having a broken tooth that requires removal, to having significant periodontal disease requiring a great deal of cleaning and removal of rotten teeth.

Hailey was in for “just a cleaning” – she had some accumulation of plaque and tartar, and her owners wanted to clean it up before it led to anything more serious.

Like any patient undergoing anesthesia, Hailey was checked over by a technician and had blood drawn for presurgical screening. Hailey is 6 years old, and while her exam and bloodwork were completely normal, we take an added precaution with our older patients and connect them to IV fluids to help support their blood pressure while under anesthesia.

Hailey isn't sure she WANTS an IV catheter....

But it is for her own good!

No matter how simple or straightforward the cleaning, full general anesthesia is always recommended to ensure we can do a thorough, and proper job with minimal stress to your pet. Hailey was induced to general anesthesia, and an endotracheal tube placed to protect her airway and deliver the anesthetic gas. 
Attaching the tube from the anesthetic machine to Hailey's endotracheal tube.
All set up on the dental table, where she is monitored by machines and by a nurse!

When you go to the dentist, a hygienist cleans your teeth and the dentist does the exam and makes decisions on any procedures that need to be done. Similarly, the veterinarian examines the mouth and decides if extractions are necessary, but a technician does all the cleaning and polishing.

Hailey didn’t require any extractions, her owners were being proactive and getting her teeth cleaned before the tartar and plaque has a chance to cause a need for extractions. The technician scraped off all the tartar and plaque, using a sonic scaler – which uses high pressure water to get those stubborn stains off the tooth enamel. Once this is done, just like at your dentist, the teeth must be polished. If we scrape the stains off the teeth and don’t polish, the surface of the teeth are left with groves that will allow plaque and tartar to accumulate more quickly. So we polish all surfaces of the teeth to keep them smooth and clean as long as possible!
Cleaning with the sonic scaler.

Polishing time!

Once this is all done, the patient is taken off anesthesia, and moved to ICU for recovery. We don’t remove the endotracheal tube until we are confident they are waking up, and we keep a close eye on them until they are able to sit up on their own.  For Hailey it was a pretty uneventful procedure, but for a dog with severe periodontal disease they may benefit from additional pain medication while recovering, and they may have some bleeding post procedure and need their face cleaned up before they go home.
Hailey's before and after shots!

Every dog that has a dental procedure done leaves with a cleaner mouth, great smelling breath, and a mouth currently free of plaque and tartar! However as soon as they leave the building later that day, bacteria has already begun to repopulate in the mouth. To prolong the benefits of a dental procedure, owners can start brushing teeth, or giving dental treats or diet, or using food or water additives to reduce the build up of plaque. Brushing daily is the number one way to keep your pet from needing their teeth cleaned under anesthesia, but anything you can do to slow down the build up of plaque will lengthen the amount of time you can wait before another cleaning is necessary.