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A Dental Letter
Following is a letter written for owners of pets
examined and found to be in need of a dental cleaning.

by Jennifer Fry, VMD

Dear Concerned Pet Owner,

You are receiving this letter to help familiarize you with dental procedures. During your pet's physical examination, the doctor noticed signs of dental disease-gingivitis, halitosis, tartar and/or diseased teeth. Therefore, it has been recommended that your pet undergo a dentistry to clean and polish the teeth.

The buildup of calculus (mineralized deposits) on the teeth may lead to bad breath, painful chewing, infections of the tooth root and loss of teeth. Untreated infections in the mouth may spread throughout the bloodstream and silently damage the heart, kidneys and liver. With the advances in modern veterinary medicine, animals are living longer, happier, healthier lives, and we would like to ensure that your pet's mouth stays healthy as well as the rest of his or her body.

Your pet will be anesthetized to undergo the dental cleaning procedure because unfortunately for veterinarians, dogs and cats do not remain seated in a chair with their mouths wide open. This is necessary for your pet's safety and comfort. Under anesthesia your pet will receive a thorough quality cleaning.

If your pet is OVER FIVE YEARS of age, pre-anesthetic blood work will be required-most often a chemistry screen with or without electrolytes and a complete blood count or a packed cell volume (PCV) will be completed. For pets under five years old, we offer a mini pre-anesthetic blood test. These blood samples can be performed the morning of the procedure or may be obtained a week or so prior to the procedure. The results of the blood tests allow the doctor to choose the most appropriate anesthetics for your pet since the kidney and liver are the two major organs that are responsible for clearing the anesthetics from the blood.

Your pet will have a complete physical examination the morning of the dentistry. Very mature pets or those with prior health problems may also have an intravenous catheter placed to administer fluid therapy. An injection of a sedative is given to make him or her groggy. Your pet will then be intubated (a tube is placed in the windpipe) and oxygen and isoflurane anesthetic gas are administered to your pet through this tube. The tube also ensures that no water or dental debris gets into the windpipe during the procedure. A veterinary technician will clean (scale) each tooth with an ultrasonic dental instrument, similar to a water-pick. The doctor will again examine the teeth and determine if any teeth need to be extracted. Teeth that are loose or infected will be removed. The technician will then polish each tooth with a paste similar to what your dentist uses on you. After anesthesia your pet may be a little groggy, but can go home that evening. Occasionally, some pets are too groggy to go home and will remain in the hospital over night for their safety.

Depending on the severity of your pet's dental disease, s/he may receive an antibiotic injection immediately after the dentistry and/or may be sent home with antibiotic pills or liquid to give for several days after the procedure. Some times the doctor will even prescribe antibiotics and/or an antibacterial mouth rinse prior to the cleaning. If your pet has teeth removed, it is advisable to feed canned food until the gums heal. A recheck appointment will be scheduled with a veterinary technician 7 to 14 days after the procedure to examine the teeth and gums as well as explain home dental care with you.

Your pet will definitely benefit from a dental cleaning and polishing. S/he will have a healthier set of teeth and gums afterwards. To keep his or her teeth clean, it is advisable to feed dry food and brush the teeth daily. Bones and chew toys also provide good oral exercise and can improve dental health. A prescription dental diet called t/d is available to feed your pet either as treats or a balanced diet to help keep the teeth clean.

This Dental Letter is courtesy of Jennifer Fry, VMD and the veterinarians and staff at Antietam Valley Animal Hospital in Reading, Pennsylvania. Your veterinarian's dental protocol may differ. Please discuss your pet's dental health with your veterinarian.

Related Reading: The Importance of Dental Care for Pets From About.com

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