Brush Up On Pet Dental Care

Imagine for a second what your mouth feels like after just one day of not brushing them. Imagine what it would feel like if we NEVER brushed our teeth!

Did you know that untreated dental disease can lead to bad breath, oral infections, tooth decay and vital organ disease? Dental disease affects 80% of our pet population and 95% of pets will need a dental procedure at some point during their life. Cats and dogs have dental disease present by the time of their third birthday.

Dental disease starts by the hardening of plaque. Plaque is a soft sticky biofilm that contains millions of bacteria. Once plaque hardens it is considered tartar. This change usually happens within 36 hours.

Once the plaque is hard it attaches itself to the enamel of the tooth. Tartar gives plaque/ bacteria more surface area to multiply. Tartar buildup mechanically pushes the guns away from the teeth. This will cause exposed roots, sensitivity, loose teeth, tooth loss and tooth root abscesses. Bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and set up colonies in the heart, liver and kidneys.

When home care is started during puppyhood/early adulthood and continued throughout their life, dental disease can be prevented. Once dental disease is present it is a progressive disease that can only be slowed down with homecare.

We believe that oral care is very important. At every exam your pet’s oral cavity is examined. If we recognize early-stage periodontal disease, we will discuss what we can do at home to prevent progression. Based on your pet’s dental disease stage and temperament we may be able to offer a preventative dental cleaning and assessment. If we notice later stage periodontal disease or an acute problem, we will discuss the need for further evaluation under anesthesia with dental x-rays.


Things We Can Do At Home:

Daily Brushing

Just like with people, removing plaque daily is the gold standard. If you cannot brush daily, brushing every other day is recommended. Toothpastes are usually enzyme base, creating hydrogen peroxide when in contact with oxygen and glucose (produced by bacteria). Hydrogen peroxide will reduce the bacterial population and plaque. Human toothpaste is NOT recommended as it is meant to be rinsed and spit out.

Drinking Water and Additives

This is an enzyme based liquid that is added to their drinking water. The enzymes reduce the bacteria population by adhering to the surface of the entire oral cavity. You can compare this to our mouthwash.

Dental Diets

Fibrous diets that are larger in size and more abrasive than typical kibble. The abrasive nature removes plaque at every meal.

Dental Treats and Chews

These products are usually enzyme base. The enzymes create hydrogen peroxide when in contact with oxygen and glucose (produced by bacteria). Hydrogen peroxide will reduce the bacterial population and plaque.


Professional Dental Care Options

Preventative Dental Cleaning and Assessment

This procedure is performed at our sister hospital, Cranston Animal Hospital. A group of California technicians, from an outside animal hospital that we have partnered with, perform this procedure. This procedure is for even-tempered pets that present with early-stage dental disease. This procedure is anesthesia free and performed with the same equipment that is used in our anesthetic procedures.

Your pet’s oral cavity will be examined for any abnormalities before the cleaning process is begun. If a potential problem is noted during this examination the procedure will be stopped and you will be recommended to have an anesthetic procedure with x-rays for further evaluation. As long as your pet does not resist to process too much the technicians will continue. If your pet does resist the process, one of our veterinarians will give you to discuss the next steps.

This procedure should not be used as a standalone dental care procedure. An anesthetic dental procedure is recommended annually.

Dental Assessment and Treatment Plan

This procedure is performed here at Oaklawn Animal Hospital by our doctors and technicians. This procedure is for nervous pets, advanced dental disease or an acute problem. You will be given an estimate based on the stage of your pet’s dental disease. blood work will be run on your pet to evaluate overall health status.

On the day of the anesthetic procedure, your pet will have an exam in the morning. Based on your pet’s bloodwork and exam, the best option of medications will be administered based on your pet’s individual weight.

Your pet will have a front leg shaved and an intravenous catheter placed, to administer fluids throughout the procedure. The catheter also gives us direct vein access, if a critical situation occurs. We also use the catheter to administer additional pain medication, if needed by your pet.

Your pet will be sedated and maintained with anesthesia. Anesthetic maintenance levels are based on your pet’s individual response to the anesthesia.

Sedative drugs and anesthesia is known to decreased blood pressure during the procedure. When blood pressure is not kept within or close to normal ranges it can result in damage to the kidneys. Intravenous fluids help keep your pet’s blood pressure close normal range. This ensures that oxygen and nutrients continue to reach vital organs, including the brain and the kidneys. Intravenous fluids also help flush the sedative drugs and anesthesia from the liver and kidneys, resulting in a smoother, quicker recovery.

Anesthesia can also lower your pet’s core temperature. We try to keep your pet’s temperature as close to normal as possible. We achieve this by using a warm water recirculating blanket that they lay on and a warm air blanket placed over them while under anesthesia.

During the entire anesthetic event your pet will be monitored. A dedicated technician will be monitoring your pet’s

  • Heart rate
  • Heart’s electrical activity (EKG)
  • Blood pressure
  • Oxygen saturation
  • Exhaled carbon dioxide amount
  • Temperature

Once under anesthesia, the technician will, take before pictures of your pet oral cavity, do a preliminary oral examination, remove tartar to perform dental x-rays. The doctor will do a complete oral examination, which includes, identifying abnormalities, measuring for periodontal pockets, assessing mobility of individual teeth and comparing their oral findings with the dental x-rays.

Over 50% of our pet’s dental disease is actually hidden underneath the gum line. The dental x-rays that we produce gives us insight to the health of each individual tooth root and crown. We are looking for, bone loss around around the roots, tooth root abscesses, crown or root fractures, resorption and overall health of the jaw bone. All of our extractions are based on the individual pet’s exam and x-ray findings. We do everything we can to save a tooth. If there is a tooth that we are concerned about, we will call the owner and discuss our options. When we leave a known problem tooth, there will need to be ongoing committed homecare.

Any pet that is having extractions, will have a nerve block administered. This medication is similar to Novocain and provides pain control for up to six hours.

The doctor will do the extraction with sterile instruments. The extraction site will be x-rayed after the extraction is completed, to confirm that all of the root(s) has been extracted. There are certain cases, mainly with resorption, where there may be small sections of the root left behind because it has become cemented to the jaw. Once the post extraction x-ray is complete, the extraction site will be sutured. That technician at this point, will do a thorough cleaning and polish each individual tooth and take post procedure pictures of your pet’s oral cavity. Once the procedure is completed, the technician will monitor the recovery of your pet and the doctor will call you with an update on your pet’s procedure and condition.


We try to ensure that your pet is as pain-free as possible after the dental procedure. We do this in the following way

  • The dental nerve block given during the procedure is still effective
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Pain medication
  • Antibiotics (depending on the exam findings)


Post Extraction Care:

  • Wet food for 7-10 days
  • Soaked and mushed up dry kibble for 7-10 days
  • Soft treats
  • No hard toys
  • No brushing of teeth


A technician will go over the information in the packet

  • Before and after pictures of your pet’s oral cavity
  • The dental graph indicating exam findings and extractions
  • Homecare discharge instructions
  • Stages of dental disease information
  • Individual disease process information found during the procedure
  • Tips on brushing your pet teeth
  • Product recommendation brochures

We will do a complimentary exam of the extraction site a week later. At this point we will let you know what to feed and if it’s okay to start brushing. We can also help you create a homecare plan to keep your pet’s teeth pearly white.