In our last installment, we discussed the importance of dental radiograph X-rays during a Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT). This week, I will briefly describe the other vital steps involved in keeping that smile looking great.
- Prior to anesthesia, our patients undergo a thorough examination by our doctors and have pre-operative lab screening performed which includes blood work tailored to the patient’s age and an ECG. Based on this evaluation, our doctors will create a personalized anesthetic plan for the patient.
- On the day of the COHAT, the patient is anesthetized, and advanced monitoring equipment is employed to measure vital parameters such as blood pressure, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, body temperature, and heart rate. A dedicated anesthesia technician then monitors the patient throughout the entire procedure. It is at this point where we perform a critical anesthetized oral cavity examination like when your dentist performs an oral cancer screen!
- An antiseptic wash is applied to the entire mouth to start to reduce the bacteria load in the mouth.
- We now begin the “cleaning” step wherein the tartar is gently scaled away above and below the gum-line with a specialized ultrasonic tip. This step is extremely important as it is this “below the gum-line” tartar that is often the source of most oral infections which leads to periodontal disease. Hand scalers are gently used along and under the gum-line until the tooth is “glass” smooth and free of any remaining chunks of tartar or debris.
- Now, each tooth receives a coating of a special polishing agent containing small pieces of pumice to remove any scratches to the enamel the scaling creates. The polish leaves a “slick” surface above and below the gum-line that tartar has a harder time re-attaching to.
- Before we take the next step, we use a special air / water syringe to vigorously rinse the oral cavity, removing all large pieces of tartar that have been removed during the cleaning step.
- Radiographs (x-rays) are obtained after the teeth have been cleaned and polished. The doctor can now assess EVERY tooth’s surrounding structures using these x-rays. The doctor evaluates the x-rays for abscesses and evidence of periodontal infection. We look for bone cancers or cysts, broken roots, as well as retained roots from missing teeth or previously extracted teeth. As mentioned in the first part of this two-part series, x-rays are essential in providing you a COMPLETE and THOROUGH picture of your pet’s oral health.
- Next, the doctor will “chart” each tooth evaluating for mobility or discoloration, or any enamel cracks that may require a sealant. Furthermore, the doctor evaluates for “pockets” surrounding each tooth using a special charting tool. We have all experienced these same measurements during our own “cleanings” as the hygienist measures our gum pockets. Our dentist doesn’t like to see gum pockets greater than 3 millimeters and the same holds true for our veterinary patients.
- If the doctor determines a tooth has advanced periodontal disease based on the x-rays and charting, the doctor will decide the best treatment course. In most cases, the tooth must be surgically removed to relieve the pain and the source of the infection. Sometimes, our doctors can save teeth using advanced periodontal procedures. All our doctors utilize nerve blocks to ease the pain of a surgical tooth extraction.
- Finally, a protective layer of fluoride foam is placed on the enamel. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and it helps reverse enamel decay.
- My childhood dentist used to tell me “only brush the teeth you want to keep!” Although there are many options for home oral health care (including sealants, gels, water additives and antiseptic impregnated chews), it has been scientifically proven that brushing is by far a superior method of minimizing plaque buildup. Talk to your veterinarian about a home care plan that fits your pet’s needs. The professional COHAT is just one part of the bigger picture. You need both professional anesthetized care as well as home care, and one can’t take the place of the other. When both are done, your pet’s improved health is worth it!
Call us at 719-955-0966 to schedule your pet’s COHAT today and keep your pet’s winning smile!
These blog comments, although based in scientific research, reflect our professional opinions only and are accurate and true to the best of our knowledge. They are for informational purposes and do not constitute treatment advice, nor should it take the place of seeking medical attention and a diagnosis from a trained professional. We reserve the right to change these blog comments if/as new research emerges.