When people go to the dentist for a checkup, we usually don’t need anesthesia. So why do our pets? Our vets explain why pets need to be anesthetized for routine cleanings.
The vet will start with a consultation when your pet is awake to get a general idea of your pet’s dental condition. Most of the tooth (about 60%) is covered by the gum, so tools and radiographs are needed to examine under your pet’s gums in order to determine the condition of the teeth.
Before the cleaning begins your pet will be anesthetized. The veterinarian will conduct a complete oral exam and take x-rays to identify any potential problems beneath the gum line. Here, she will discover if your pet has any broken teeth and roots, periodontal disease, dead teeth, abscesses or infections.
The next step is a full cleaning of the exposed tooth and underneath the gum line where periodontal disease lurks. This requires time, patience, and sharp dental instruments. It would be nearly impossible to clean this area properly on an alert dog or cat. Next, the veterinarian will scale and polish the visible part of your pet’s teeth. The tooth is scraped to remove plaque and any tartar buildup. Then she will polish the teeth to leave a smooth surface, preventing plaque and bacteria from adhering to a rough tooth surface.
Your veterinarian also might add a dental sealant. Sanos is a liquid dental barrier sealant that is coated on the teeth after polishing to help keep the oral cavity clean and extend the benefits of the dental cleaning for up to 6 months.
The entire process takes about a minute per tooth. Cats have 30 teeth, and dogs have 42, so the time adds up. Your pet is given the least amount of anesthesia possible so he is asleep for just a short time.
Because of the sharp tools and time-consuming process, anesthesia is used to ensure the safety of your pet and so the veterinarian can completely clean your pet’s teeth.