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Did you know that 80% of animals over 5 years of age have some form of dental disease? At Nixa Animal Hospital, we utilize the latest techniques and modern equipment to provide the best dental care for your pet.
Ten steps to a healthy mouth
1. Physical examination. Every animal we see has an examination of the mouth performed as part of the general physical examination. We will grade the severity of the dental disease we can see from 1-4, with one being minor dental problems and 4 being major dental problems. This gives us a rough idea of what we may need to do during a dental procedure. We will provide a rough estimate for the procedures we may need to do. We may find more problems during the dental procedure and in this case we will call you to discuss our findings and give you an exact cost for the procedure.
2. Preoperative bloodwork and examination. Any animal that receives general anesthesia at Nixa Animal Hospital gets a full physical examination on the day of surgery and blood tests are performed to make sure the animal is in good health. Blood work is highly recommended for all pets and required for pets over the age of five years old.
3. General anesthesia. Dentistry requires an animal to be under a general anesthetic. The patient is anesthetized and IV catheter and anesthetic monitors are placed. A veterinary assistant monitors the heart rate, blood pressure, EKG, respirations and oxygen saturation.
4. Intraoral Radiology. We perform digital x-rays of the teeth for all patients undergoing a dental procedure with Grade 2-4 periodontal disease. The only way to accurately evaluate the whole tooth is to x-ray. In many cases the crown of the tooth may appear normal, but an x-ray of the tooth may reveal a problem with the root that requires treatment. To the right is an x-ray of a dog with severe dental disease. You can see that the bone around the roots of the teeth has receded away from the tooth roots. These teeth will need to be removed.
5. Scaling. Scaling is the process where the tartar is removed from the teeth. Tartar is produced by bacteria that live on the teeth. Tartar causes inflammation of the gums(gingivitis) and this leads to recession of the gums, exposure of the tooth roots and eventually loss of the tooth. We remove the tartar with a combination of an ultrasonic scaler and hand scaling. Removal of the tartar on the teeth is vital to improving the health of the mouth and it also removes the source of the patient's halitosis (bad breath). Pictured below, the ultrasonic scaler is being used to remove tartar from the cat's teeth.
6. Periodontal probing. Once the teeth have been scaled the veterinarian examines each tooth individually with a periodontal probe. We use the probe to look for pockets. Pockets are caused by the gum losing its attachment to the tooth. Bacteria and tartar can accumulate in the pocket causing the wall of the tooth socket to erode and this leads to loosening of the tooth in the socket and eventually this leads to tooth loss. A small pocket may be cleaned and flushed, but a deep pocket usually requires that the affected tooth is removed. Below shows a periodontal probe is being used to detect periodontal pockets in this cat.
7. Charting. The combination of radiology and periodontal probing allows us to accurately diagnose any problems with the teeth and formulate a treatment plan. We use a special chart to record our findings and treatments.
8. Extractions. If we decide that a tooth cannot be saved, it will be extracted. A local anesthetic block is commonly used to control pain associated with the extraction. Once the block has taken effect, we elevate a flap of gum tissue to expose the jaw bone. A high speed drill is used to cut the tooth into sections to allow for easier removal. A post extraction x-ray is taken to make sure that all of the roots have been removed. The flap is sutured with a fine absorbable suture to close the area of extraction.
9. Polish and Fluoride Treatment. Once the scaling and treatment are completed we will polish the teeth and apply a fluoride treatment to delay plaque accumulation.
10. Post operative care. We will give specific post operative instructions. This may include soft food and no toothbrushing for a few days. We will discuss treatment options designed to reduce the accumulation of tartar on the teeth. The treatment options may include a combination of tooth brushing, special dental diets (Hills t/d) and oral rinses.