Even in the most compliant and relaxed pet, very little of the total tooth surface is available for examination. For starters, nearly half of the tooth is located underneath the gum. From there, consider that a sizable portion of the tooth crown is obscured from view by the lips and tongue, or just plain out of reach. Just for grins, ask another person to look at the back side of your upper teeth and see how easy it is. Try looking at 42 teeth in a dog’s mouth! (Or 30 teeth in a cat’s mouth—fewer teeth, but arguably more dangerous…) This is why veterinary dentistry is done under anesthesia.
While anesthesia is essential to a good oral exam and cleaning, it is just as essential to keep the pet safe and comfortable. Click here for more information about how Heekin Animal Hospital keeps your pet safe.
During a dental procedure, our Registered Veterinary Technicians scale the calculus (tartar) from the teeth, and follow with polishing to leave a smooth enamel surface. Then each and every tooth is radiographed using our digital radiography system. This gives the veterinarian valuable insight into problems that may be occurring under the gum. Finally, the veterinarian performs an exam of the mouth using magnification. A periodontal probe is used to evaluate the health of the gum and to measure the depth of periodontal pockets where bacteria and disease reside. Problems are recorded on a dental chart that stays in the pet’s medical record. If necessary, a treatment plan is made to address the problems that were discovered.
A routine (preventive) procedure takes about one hour. Diseased mouths take longer to clean and assess. The pet typically goes home a few hours later, and resumes normal eating and activity that evening.