12 Steps to Healthy Pet Teeth | Dentistry

The 12 step process to our High Quality Dentistry Care


canine dentistry

Step 1: Patient History and Examination
A complete examination is required to ensure your pet is healthy.  This, along with some blood work, allows us to determine how well your pet can do with the anesthetics that we use during the dental.  If there are underlying problems, then different medications may need to be used.  Similarly, some systemic diseases can cause specific dental lesions.

Step 2: Initial Oral Survey
This is done during the physical examination and allows us to get an idea of what may be involved with the dental care of your pet.  Examples would include fractured teeth (with or without pulp/nerve exposure), oral masses, discolored teeth (staining or dead tooth), odor, missing teeth, retained deciduous (baby) teeth, etc.  However, even in a very cooperative patient it is impossible to determine all of the problems that are lurking under the surface without anesthesia and dental radiographs (see below).

Step 3:  Supragingival Calculus Removal

This is removal of the large tartar chunks (calculus) above the gums (supragingival).  This is the most visible part of the dental procedure but it is the LEAST important for your pets dental health!  This is the only step of a dental that can be done without anesthesia and the most important part of the 12 step process has not been done!   If your pet has significant dental tartar then they are likely exhibiting dental pain and this process would be very painful to them if done without anesthesia.  Therefore, it is still not recommended to do this procedure in an awake animal.

The tartar is removed with a combination of scaling with power scalers and hand scalers – the same type of equipment that is used at your dentist’s office.

Step 4:  Subgingival Cleaning
This is the cleaning of the space underneath the gums (subgingival).  This is the least visible part of the dental cleaning but the most important part of the procedure for your pet.  This step serves to remove all the calculus, plaque, and toxins from the root surfaces under the gums.  This cleaning will allow the gums to re-attach to the tooth root.  Periodontal pockets form under the gums secondary to oral bacteria and your pets immune response to the infection.  Pockets are detected by gently placing a periodontal probe under the margins around the tooth (just like it’s done at your dentist).  Large pockets allow the collection of plaque, calculus, and foreign material under the gums.  The more material in the pocket, the deeper the pocket gets and the cycle continues to repeat.  Eventually, so much loss of the normal attachment of the tooth occurs that the tooth becomes unsalvageable.  Subgingival cleaning, as mentioned above, can help the tooth regain normal attachments if it is caught and fixed early.

Step 5: Polishing
Polishing of the tooth surface removes small defects and irregularities that occur during the cleaning process.  Smoothing the surface decreases plaque retention and slows the formation of calculus.  This step cannot be performed correctly without anesthesia.  If your pet has ever had a “dental” without anesthesia, then you may have noticed the tartar (calculus) came back twice as fast.  The reason it comes back so much faster is because the tooth is not smooth.  Any rough surfaces on the tooth allow for plaque and tartar to come back much faster.

Step 6: Oral irrigation/lavage
This step involves flushing all the debris that is left over from the dental procedure out of the mouth (similar to when your dental hygienist flushes water in your mouth and then sucks it out).  If this debris is left in the mouth, then it can cause a lot of inflammation of the delicate tissues in the mouth.

Step 7: Fluoride application
Fluoride serves to strengthen the enamel and helps decrease sensitivity of the tooth and roots.  Fluoride is most effective in young animals as there enamel is much weaker.  We recommend your pet receive a  “juvenile prophy” during the time of their spay or neuter.  This involves a onetime polishing of the teeth with a fluoride product to help their teeth grow stronger.

Step 8: Complete Charting
This is where all abnormalities and treatments in your pets mouth are charted in their record fro future reference.  This will allow for tracking of any changes in your pets dental health in the future.

Step 9: Dental Radiographs
Radiographs (x-rays) are an essential diagnostic tool in dentistry.  Just like when you go to the dentist, radiographs are needed to determine what type of disease is occurring underneath the gums.  Eighty percent of the dental anatomy is under the gum and not visible without radiographs!  It is impossible to determine if there is an infection in the tooth or if the tooth has other diseases processes without radiographs.  It is simply impossible to practice quality dentistry without the use of dental radiographs.  Our radiographs are taken digitally so they are saved in the computer with your pets record and ready for you to view them at any time.

Step 10: Treatment Plan
This where a plan is developed based on all of the above steps to treat any found dental disease.  Most pets require additional treatment beyond just “cleaning and polishing”.  Once a treatment plan is developed we will contact you to discuss the recommendations and get approval.  If we cannot reach you, then we will not proceed further until discussing and reviewing all the findings with you.  In some cases we need to stage the treatment and may have you come back in 1-2 weeks for complete treatment.

Step 11: Home Care
We will review any recommended dental care at home at the time you pick your pet up.   The recommended home care will vary depending on the treatment provided, the severity of dental disease, and your ability to participate in your pets dental care.  We always recommend you have your pet rechecked in 3-4 week to ensure things are going well.  This dental recheck is at no extra cost to our clients.

Step 12: Scheduling your next appointment
We will also inform you of when we recommend seeing your pet again.  This again depends on the treatment performed and severity of dental disease present.  We have a free recheck in 3-4 weeks, but additional rechecks with severe disease may also be required.  Pets with severe periodontal disease (under the gums) will likely need more frequent rechecks and dental care.

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