Why is pet dentistry so important? A “dental” is so much more than just cleaning teeth. We refer to dentals as COHAT’s, meaning Comprehensive Oral Assessment and Treatment. In many cases, owners are unaware that their pet has oral/dental problems. The pet feels pain, but doesn’t communicate this with the owner and many painful conditions are frequently overlooked. Broken teeth, abscessed teeth, deep cavities, oral tumors, gum disease, and many other oral problems commonly affect our pets. These conditions are painful, yet can remain undetected for years. This is why we perform full mouth x-rays on ALL of our patients undergoing a COHAT with our digital dental x-ray unit.
The following summarizes a “typical” COHAT or “dental:
First, our veterinarian will perform a thorough pre-anesthetic examination and blood is drawn for pre-op bloodwork. The examination and lab-work help verify the patient is a good anesthesia candidate. Next, the patient receives pre-anesthetic medication. This is made up of a mild sedative and a pain reliever. This combination relieves anxiety the pet may be feeling about visiting the hospital, and provides preemptive pain control.
Once the premedication has taken effect and the IV is started, the patient is anesthetized. A personalized set of medications for the day’s anesthesia will be tailored for the individual pet!
A tube is placed in the airway to protect it and keep it open, and a gas anesthesia is given via the breathing tube. Gas anesthesia gives us the finest control available for administering medications to pets.
Once the pet is anesthetized, the patient monitoring system is hooked up. It measures heart rate, electrical activity of the heart (EKG), blood pressure, body temperature, blood oxygenation, respiratory rate and how much carbon dioxide is being expelled with each breath. In addition, a trained veterinary technician monitors the patient directly while the computer monitors record all these vital signs.
After anesthesia is induced and the patient monitors are all in place, a full mouth set of digital dental x-rays are taken. These x-rays show us the 60-70% of each tooth that is invisible because it is below the gum line as well as the internal structure of each tooth. Without x-rays, 60-70% of injuries, diseases and infections within the mouth will be missed and left untreated.
After the x-rays are taken, the veterinarian performs a complete oral exam of every tooth surface, every gum surface, the roof of the mouth, cheeks, tongue and floor of the mouth. Any periodontal pockets are recorded as well as cracks, chips, loose teeth, oral tumors, etc. Each tooth is given an individual score rating its plaque accumulation and calculus or tartar accumulation. A technician records every single finding in the pet’s digital dental record during the exam.
Using the combined information from the x-rays and the oral examination to generate an assessment of overall oral health, the veterinarian makes a plan for any recommended treatments. These treatments may include things like extractions, gingival flaps, antibiotic therapy, mass removals, or oral surgery. Every surface of every tooth above and below the gum line is cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner and hand instruments. The procedure is finished with a polish to smooth out each tooth and a fluoride treatment is applied.
Hopefully this summary has helped explain what a COHAT really is, and how thorough, thoughtful and careful we are with every aspect of dentistry!