DR. NORTH: Pet dentistry FAQ

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January and February are Dental Health Months, where we focus on the importance of dental health for our pets, and how a pretty smile must be backed up by healthy teeth below the gum line in order to keep the body healthy and the teeth in place as long as possible.

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This week we are going to touch on some frequently asked questions that we get asked about pet dentistry.

Is the anesthetic going to be risky for Chewy?

Minimizing the risk of an anesthetic is a job that veterinarians take very seriously, from the quickest wound repair, to longer bone surgeries, to dental procedures in our oldest pets. Physical examinations and tests are used before the procedures to assess suitability for anesthesia and to decide on the best combinations of drugs and intravenous fluids for each pet. This is followed by dedicated monitoring of their body systems, as well as direct supervision from a team of a veterinarian and technicians. No medical professional is going to tell you that anesthetics are "risk free," but there is little that is worth having in life that is risk free. It's certainly worthwhile to give Chewy a longer, healthier, less painful life by having a healthy mouth.

What's included for the money that I'm spending?

When you're given a dental estimate there's a list of items that are included in the collective pricing for a dentistry. There are also unlisted items that are performed as part of a dental cleaning. In addition to the procedures for the anesthetic discussed above, a full mouth exam is also performed — looking at the teeth, probing root pockets and all the soft tissue in the mouth. Full dental scaling on all surfaces of the teeth (even the tough to reach between the teeth/back of the mouth areas) is followed by polishing and finally flushing any remaining dental debris, tartar and bacteria.

All this while Chewy is snuggled up under a cozy heated blanket. Chewy will wake up under direct supervision in the recovery ward until you come to pick him up (usually later the same day). When you pick up Chewy, the caring veterinary team goes over the procedure, any necessary medications and recommendations. A follow up progress exam is included to ensure the mouth is healing nicely. From start to finish, the average time that staff are involved with each dentistry is between one to two hours.

How often will Chewy need to have a dentistry?

Every one of our furry friends is an individual both in personality and in their dental hygiene.

They all have different spacing of the teeth, different chewing habits, different diets and treats they enjoy, as well as saliva that forms tartar at different rates, so there is variability in when they need dentistry. However, for smaller animals especially, it is fairly normal to need a professional cleaning once a year. Dental assessments at their yearly wellness exams help to decide on the frequency required by your pet. Remember that a once yearly dentistry for them is the equivalent of us humans going five to seven years between professional dental cleanings.

Can Chewy eat his regular food afterwards?

Most patients are happily chewing their food later the same day. Even with extractions or tooth removals, once the source of pain has been removed, and they have been given some pain medication, they are happier to eat than before. You may find that you are given some suggestions by your veterinary team on changes to Chewy’s diet that will help him have a healthier mouth and possibly have longer intervals between cleanings.

These are a small selection of the questions that thoughtful pet caregivers ask when they are doing the best for their furry loved ones. Be sure to ask your veterinarian these questions and more so you can comfortably choose better dental hygiene and a better quality of life for the Chewy in your life.

Dr. Katharine North has been a resident and active participant in the Fort St. John community since her family immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom as a child. Dr. North spent many hours at the North Peace Veterinary Clinic as a student and joined the practice as a veterinary associate upon graduation.

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