Our friend Curtis and a dental cleaning

We thought that in honour of dental month we would write a blog highlighting the process of a dental assessment and cleaning under anesthesia.  We centered this piece around the experiences of our own clinic cat Curtis, who underwent this procedure in the month of January. Our team had suspected that Curtis had a painful tooth, and in fact found two. These diseased teeth were removed, and Curtis seems much happier. His smile is certainly beautiful! In italics below are the thoughts of our 10-year old friend Curtis as he looks back on the day (forgive us for some creative license with the thoughts of a cat). These are followed by our own description of a dental procedure.

My day started very poorly today, and it is very unusual. My friends are all here, but they appear to have forgotten that it is very important that I get my morning meal. They have also taken some blood  and shaved my arm and placed one of those fluid lines into it like I see on so many of our visitors. I knew right away that this is going to be an unusual day! Have they forgotten my love of food?!

Later in the morning, one of my friends wrapped me in a nice warm towel and gave me a quick injection...ouch! But then I was very sleepy and comfortable. They carried me out of my kennel and we headed down to the dentistry area of the hospital. I like being in the basement, but I am usually here to do some exercise… It seems like something is different today… I drifted to sleep with my friend watching me.

I woke up in the same place, with the same friendly face looking over me and rubbing my head, but things do feel different. I am very sleepy. The rest of my day was so nice… I got to cuddle in my home with lots of warm blankets and my friends were constantly fussing over me. I think that I even got my dinner a bit early! My mouth feels different, and it no longer hurts. Thanks guys!

When coming into our hospital for a dental procedure your pet would be admitted by one of our veterinary technicians, who will act as their ‘nurse’ for the day. Their role is to assist the veterinarian with anesthesia and with the dental cleaning, and to be the primary patient care person for the day, insuring that the pet is calm, safe and well cared-for.

We require that all animals be fully anesthetized for dental procedures, as this is the only way that we can properly assess the mouth and do a thorough cleaning. Dogs and cats are not big fans of sitting still while we scrape their back teeth! In order to insure anesthetic safety, all pets will have had a recent examination by a doctor, and our technicians will also do their own specific exam the morning of the procedure. We also run a blood panel in our hospital lab prior to the procedure to insure that the pet has no blood cell issues (looking for signs of infection, issues with blood clotting, etc) and no problems with kidney or liver function. All patients are then put on an intravenous fluid drip to insure that we can give medications in the easiest possible way. These IV fluids also support their heart and blood pressure while under anesthesia. 

Each patient is anesthetized using medications tailored to their age, species, size and medical status and then they are all maintained under anesthesia using the same inhaled gas that is used in many human hospitals. While their teeth are scaled and polished by one of our technicians they are kept warm on a special table and monitored closely.

The process of scaling and cleaning the teeth is no different than what we would experience at our own dentist, other than the fact that we use a different range of instruments due to the variety of our patients (we could be cleaning the teeth of a 2kg cat or 50kg dog and anything in between!). Our technicians are very skilled at completing the cleaning procedure efficiently to ensure that we can recover each patient quickly from anesthesia. Following the cleaning, a veterinarian will examine the mouth and assess whether there are any concerns to be addressed. If there are any concerns, the veterinarian will co-ordinate and assess dental x-rays and extractions of teeth or other treatments as necessary.

The true nature of a dental procedure is different for each patient. Some may need a quick and simple cleaning only, and they will be under anesthesia for less than half an hour. Others will need multiple x-rays and possible tooth extractions; these complicated procedures can mean a much longer anesthesia time.

Following the procedure, the patient is recovered by a technician and monitored closely for the remainder of the day. Pain medications will be used if necessary, but are not needed following simple dental cleanings. Thanks to updated pain medications and the types of anesthetics we now use, most patients go home the same day. Then it is time for rest and relaxation!

We understand that clients are very concerned when their animal comes into the hospital for any procedure, but that veterinary dentistry may especially be something that owners have no experience with. Our team is happy to answer any questions and hope that we outline the process well enough when we do recommend a dental assessment and cleaning under anesthesia.