Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Feb 17, 2013 | General Health

The Benefits of a Healthy Mouth


Why your pet needs preventive dental care

Dental health is vital to your pet’s overall health and quality of life. Without preventive care, pets can experience tooth and bone loss, gum inflammation, infection and pain which may go unnoticed because they cannot tell us when something is wrong.

Preventive care may also contribute to your pet’s longevity. A 2010 study conducted by Purdue University looked at the health records of 120,000 dogs. The study results demonstrated that dogs affected by dental disease had higher rates of heart disease.

“Focusing on pet oral health is at the forefront of improving the quality of life for dogs and cats. As veterinarians we are advocates for our patients. Keeping a pet’s mouth healthy involves an active partnership between the home care each pet receives and professional cleaning and treatment,” said Dr. Laura Weis, owner of Doylestown Veterinary Hospital in Doylestown, PA.

Preventive dental care includes regular brushing at home, and professional dental exams and cleanings at the veterinary office. Care should be introduced when your pet is young because dental disease is diagnosed by age three in 80 percent of dogs and cats.

Cost is another reason to start preventive care early. The cost of prophylactic dental care spread over the lifetime of your pet is less expensive than the costly expense of extractions, gum surgery, treating infection and other associated problems in an older pet with severe dental disease.

What does a Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment include?

  • Thorough patient history and review of diet and home dental health
  • General physical examination
  • Pre-anesthetic diagnostics (such as blood work, urine testing and a cardiac evaluation—as indicated by age and health issues)
  • Awake oral examination
  • Discussion of known and suspected dental problems and development of a treatment plan
  • Oral examination under anesthesia
  • Removal of heavy plaque and tartar
  • Measuring depths around teeth and recording on a dental chart
  • Examination of tooth crowns for wear, fractures, discoloration
  • Intra-oral x-rays
  • Revision of treatment plan
  • Scaling of all teeth above and below the gum line
  • Oral surgical procedures as needed (such as extractions, endodontics and biopsies)
  • Polishing of all teeth above and below the gum line
  • Rinsing and flushing of mouth followed by fluoride treatment
  • Recovery from anesthesia
  • Review of detailed discharge instructions and guidance for diet and home dental care
  • 10-14 day follow-up to assess healing and answer questions

Why is anesthesia necessary?

Anesthesia is vital to performing a complete dental exam because most dogs and cats are not going to willingly open their mouths wide and let someone poke around in there with tiny, sharp instruments. The well-being of the dog or cat and the safety of the animal and medical professionals are the primary reasons why anesthesia is necessary.

The use of anesthesia always carries a risk so it’s understandable that pet owners are wary about the need for anesthesia and the expense of dental procedures that require sedation. However, veterinarians are trained in sedation and the administration and monitoring of anesthetic drugs. Risks are reduced when used properly in a hospital setting.

“While anesthesia is never 100% risk free, modern anesthetics and patient evaluation procedures minimize those risks. Millions of pets are anesthetized safely every year in veterinary hospitals across the United States,” explained Dr. Weis.

There’s a growing trend in performing dental procedures on animals without anesthesia. While you may think this is a safe and inexpensive alternative, it’s definitely not.  These procedures are nothing more than a glorified teeth brushing because proper tartar removal requires the use of ultrasonic and sonic power instruments, and the removal of tartar from under the gum line. Without examining areas behind the teeth and under the tongue, problems will go unnoticed. Anesthesia provides pain management and removes the risk of accidental inhalation of plaque and debris dislodged during the cleaning process.

“All dental procedures involve the use of sharp instruments. Even a slight head movement by the patient could result in significant damage to the patient’s mouth. General anesthesia is absolutely essential in veterinary dentistry,” added Dr. Weis.

The use of anesthesia is necessary to perform a complete periodic dental examination, including a thorough cleaning and surgical procedures, while ensuring the comfort of your pet and safety of the animal and medical staff. Taking preventative steps over the lifetime of your pet may reduce the impact of bad oral health and the costs associated with managing acute dental disease.

  • The Wellness Plans offered at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital include preventive dental care. Chose a plan that best fits the needs of your pet and your budget.
  • All patients scheduled for a wellness exam in February will get a complimentary dental exam, and receive a dental report card and a goodie bag to help promote excellent oral hygiene. If a dental cleaning is recommended, all procedures scheduled within 60 days will receive a discount of $50.00 on this service. Schedule a dental appointment for your pet today!
  • For more information, call 215-348-4344 or email us at