February was veterinary dental health month. Therefore, we have been performing many dental procedures. Good dental hygiene is very important for overall health. Personally you know how much better you feel after you brush your teeth, and your teeth feel even better after a visit to your family dentist. Keeping your teeth clean and healthy brightens and invigorates you. You can then imagine how much happier and comfortable your pet’s lives can be with regular dental care.
For most animals your veterinarian can examine the teeth and mouth and then render an informed opinion as the extent of dental disease without anesthesia. I have on the contrary, had an occasional patient which is too fearful or angry to perform a dental exam, especially if I wish to leave with my fingers intact. For these fractious patients, and to complete an in-depth exam and treatment in any animal, we must use anesthesia or at least heavy sedation.
Even some human dental patient’s stress level is so great that they require or request anesthesia, even when simple dental procedures are performed. Many human dentists offer some type of sedation or full anesthesia in the form of oral, IV medication, or nitrous oxide. My wife has no major dental procedure performed without sedation, and she is much happier for it.
Today I had a perfect example of how important anesthesia is for dental procedures. I completed a dental scale and polish on a very sweet fourteen year old male neutered Chihuahua. With his pleasant and cooperative attitude it was very tempting to try cleaning his teeth without the benefit of anesthesia. Had I done so I would have missed the deep pocket on the lingual (tongue) side of the upper fourth premolar tooth. This pocket required at least 15 minutes of careful subgingival curettage in order to remove the tartar that had formed. After curetting the tartar I filled the pocket with a therapeutic gel that has shown efficacy in decreasing the depth of dental pockets. Had I attempted this dental procedure with no anesthesia I could have never diagnosed or then treated this area of significant dental disease. This is just one of the many examples I could site which reaffirms the necessity of dental anesthesia.
If the fear of anesthesia is holding you back from seeking dental care for your pet, please schedule an exam and anesthetic consultation with your family veterinarian. Current veterinary anesthetics are the same as are utilized in human medicine. All of our patients are monitored with an ECG and a respiration monitor in addition to a technician monitoring vital signs. In addition to these safety measures, we suggest pre-anesthesia blood work and placing an IV catheter and administering IV fluids during the procedure to decrease risk.
Horses usually don’t require general anesthesia, but they must be tranquilized and a full mouth speculum placed to do an adequate oral exam and perform dental procedures. Tooth extraction is the most common reason that your horse may have to receive general anesthesia although occasionally teeth may be extracted with tranquilization and local anesthesia.
Good dental hygiene is essential to the overall health of your pets. While no anesthetic procedure is without risk, for most pets the benefits of dental care out way the potential risks of the anesthesia. Please discuss your concerns with a veterinarian that understands the importance of anesthesia. He or she will tailor an anesthetic protocol specifically designed to minimize risk for your pet.