Like people, pets require professional dental cleanings, because toothbrushing alone does not provide adequate dental care. However, cats and dogs don’t lean back and say, “Ahhh,” and allow our dental team to tackle tartar. Since pets do not understand the importance of dental care for their overall health and well-being, we use general anesthesia so they are not aware of the procedure, to eliminate pain, and to ensure a smooth, comfortable dental experience while we remove all traces of their tartar and dental disease. When your pet comes in for a dental cleaning at Mill Creek Animal Hospital, we follow these steps:

Step 1: Perform a comprehensive physical exam

Before we put any pet under anesthesia, we always perform a comprehensive, nose-to-tail, physical exam to check for any abnormalities. We listen carefully to your pet’s heart and lungs, check their gum color, take their temperature, and assess their overall health and attitude.

Step 2: Run pre-anesthetic blood work

In addition to a physical exam, we run pre-anesthetic blood work, to take a closer look at your furry pal’s internal function. A complete blood count and a chemistry panel allow us to detect anemia, infection, inflammation, dehydration, and organ dysfunction. This crucial step gives us information about how well your pet will handle anesthetic drugs, and whether we need to pay special attention to any underlying conditions, such as kidney or liver disease. 

Step 3: Devise an anesthetic protocol

Once we have your pet’s blood work results, we formulate an anesthetic protocol, carefully selecting each anesthetic drug based on your pet’s health status and organ function, since these medications are metabolized by the liver and kidneys. If either of these organs are not functioning properly, your pet may struggle to clear the drugs from their system. Here at Mill Creek Animal Hospital, we take every step possible to ensure your beloved companion’s health and safety—that is why we so strongly believe in the importance of pre-anesthetic blood work.

Step 4: Place an intravenous (IV) catheter

Placing an IV catheter is another important anesthesia step that not only allows for fluid administration to keep your pet hydrated and boost blood pressure, but also grants an easy port to give medications.

Step 5: Administer premedication

Once your pet’s IV catheter is placed, we administer a premedication, which is a cocktail of a sedative and a pain-relieving drug. This combo relaxes your pet, and ensures they feel no pain during the dental procedure. 

Step 6: Induce general anesthesia

After your pet is comfortably relaxed, we induce general anesthesia with an injectable medication. Then, when your furry pal is fully asleep, we place an endotracheal breathing tube down their trachea to protect their airway, and to administer fresh oxygen and the anesthetic gas that keeps them asleep. We also place various monitoring devices on your pet to gauge their vital signs, and ensure their safety while under anesthesia.

Step 7: Take full-mouth digital dental X-rays

Before we tackle your pet’s tartar, we take full-mouth digital dental X-rays of every tooth and root, so we know what we are dealing with in your pet’s mouth. Since more than half of the tooth can lie below the gumline, only X-rays let us identify hidden periodontal problems, such as tooth-root abscesses, jaw-bone loss, cancer, gingival pockets, tooth fractures, and impacted teeth.

Step 8: Chart problem areas in the mouth during a thorough oral exam

Based on your pet’s dental X-rays, we also complete an oral exam, charting problem areas, and looking for additional issues. Once we’ve identified all the periodontal problems, we can create our dental-care plan, and begin cleaning.

Step 9: Scale plaque and tartar off teeth

Using hand tools and an ultrasonic scaler, we remove all traces of plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. We tackle not only the tartar on the crown, but also below the gumline, where large amounts of bacteria lurk. By cleaning above and below the gumline, we can remove the most disease-causing debris.

Step 10: Polish tooth enamel to restore a smooth surface

Once your pet’s teeth are tartar-free, we polish the enamel to smooth away any microabrasions, and leave behind a smooth surface that plaque cannot cling to easily.

Step 11: Apply a fluoride treatment or oral sealant

As the last step, we apply a fluoride treatment or oral sealant to help strengthen the enamel, and protect your pet’s teeth from future disease. 

Step 12: Recover your pet from anesthesia

Once we are finished cleaning, polishing, and treating your furry pal’s teeth, it’s time they wake up and recover fully from anesthesia. During the entire recovery phase, we monitor your pet’s vital signs as carefully as when they were under anesthesia, to ensure a safe, smooth recovery. Most pets wake up quickly, walk steadily only hours after a typical dental cleaning, and are ready to go home, and eat their missed breakfast. 

Although professional veterinary dental cleanings are an excellent way to remove tough tartar from your pet’s teeth, at-home oral care is also an essential for your furry pal’s overall dental health. You wouldn’t visit your dentist for professional cleanings, and skip toothbrushing in between visits, and you should not forgo at-home dental care for your pet. Together, veterinary and at-home dental care are a tartar-tackling duo. Contact us to ensure your four-legged friend receives a thorough dental cleaning, above and below the gumline.