Dental A,H&T Frequently Asked Questions
We provide comprehensive primary care veterinary dentistry for our patients. We use modern, safe and effective dental equipment to provide your pets with routine professional dental care comparable to that available to people. On this page, we answer many of your common questions about our professional dental procedures.
Click on your question below for answers to many common questions about our professional dental assessment, hygiene and treatment procedures.
For more basic questions about pet dental health, please visit the Dental Health FAQs page.
Check our Consumer Guide to Dental Care for questions to ask your veterinarian before you commit to professional dental care for your pet.
What on earth is a Dental A,H&T?
We call our comprehensive dental visit a Dental Assessment, Hygiene & Treatment visit, or a Dental A,H&T in AMC shorthand. During the Dental Assessment, Hygiene & Treatment visit, the patient is first examined and pre-anesthetic blood and/or urine test results are reviewed. Next, an IV Catheter is placed and warmed IV fluids are administered continuously. Your pet is placed on a circulating warm-water blanket and covered with insulating polar fleece blankets to keep him cozy and comfortable.
Next, your pet is anesthetized with a combination of safe drugs. An endotracheal breathing tube is placed to protect your pet's airway and to administer the gas anesthesia. Your pet's response to the anesthesia, vital signs and overall condition are monitored by a veterinary nurse throughout the procedure and adjustments are made as needed.
A complete dental assessment of the patient's dental health includes a thorough tooth-by-tooth periodontal exam and dental charting and whole mouth survey x-rays. Next, the veterinarian determines a treatment plan as to which, if any, teeth or gums need any surgery, extractions or other treatment. The owner is, if possible, contacted by phone at this point to discuss the treatment plan.
Meanwhile, comprehensive dental hygiene care is provided including pizeoelectric scaling (removing tartar) from all teeth both above and below the gum line, polishing all teeth, and applying fluoride.
The veterinarian provides any treatment needed to eliminate sources of infection and to eliminate or reduce gum pockets which are reservoirs of bacteria and chronic infection. Treatments may include extracting severely decayed teeth, surgically trimming gums or deep cleaning and long-acting polymer antibiotic treatment of deep gum pockets and exposed roots. Pain medications are administered if major surgery or extractions are performed.
Your pet is carefully monitored while recovering from anesthesia. You are contacted with an update on your pet's condition and discharge is scheduled for later that afternoon. You are provided complete follow up care instructions and any take-home medications by the nurse. A recheck visit is scheduled for 14 days later to review home care and to check any surgery sites.
Is the Dental Assessment, Hygiene & Treatment safe?
Yes!! The risks of dental disease far outweigh the risks of treatment. As with every procedure we do, we take every reasonable precaution to keep your pet safe and comfortable before, during and after the procedure. We adhere to high safety and patient care standards. Modern anesthesia monitoring, patient warming, sterile techniques and anesthetic and pain management plans customized to the need of each patient are just a few of the things we do to safeguard our patients' well being.
Before placing your pet under anesthesia, it is important to identify any health issues that may make anesthesia higher risk. The comprehensive physical exam the veterinarian performs before surgery can identify many concerns and blood testing and/or urinalysis will identify many infections, organ dysfunction and other conditions that are not apparent through physical exam.
If the doctor finds any abnormal results, he will talk with you about how we can address any health concerns before proceeding with surgery. Sometimes we may need to delay the anesthesia until we have addressed any problems, but most often we can proceed with the dentistry with consideration of any special precautions that are indicated and follow up with any additional needed treatment after surgery.
How does an IV Catheter and IV fluids before & during dentistry make it safer?
The IV Catheter provides us with immediate access to a vein for administering drugs and/or fluids. This is a vital safety precaution for every anesthetized patient. Additional fluids are important because they help protect your pet's kidneys and other organs by helping to maintain blood pressure during surgery.
How does fluoride help?
A fluoride treatment helps harden the tooth enamel to protect against decay and also helps desensitize the teeth to prevent pain. Fluoride can only be applied under anesthesia since it is toxic to dogs and cats and must be wiped away before the pet can swallow it.
Why bother with intra-oral dental x-ray?
Dental x-ray is an extremely valuable tool for diagnosing painful dental problems that hide under the gums, in the bones of the mouth and between the teeth. Veterinary dentists have been using dental x-ray for years to evaluate problems hidden under the surface.
Now that the value of dental x-ray is understood, dental x-ray has become part of the recommended standards of care for all pets, just as dental x-rays are an essential part of dental care for people. It's like driving at night with the lights off - doing it is understandable if your lights are burned out and you have to get your sick kid to the hospital, but we'd all probably agree that it's crazy to pull onto the freeway with your headlights simply turned off!
Veterinary standards of care now recommend annual dental x-rays as part of the routine dental assessment. In learning more about the emerging field of veterinary dentistry, we have become convinced that dental x-ray is an essential tool in caring for our patients.
During the Dental AH&T, a vital part of our routine dental assessment process is whole mouth survey dental x-ray films. Additional films are taken when needed during and after extractions or other procedures.
Will my pet be in pain afterwards?
No! Your pet will be relieved from the pain of dental disease!! The veterinarian will prescribe appropriate pain medications to help your pet through any temporary pain due to any needed extractions or surgery.
Why must you anesthetize my pet? Can't you do it "awake"?
Meaningful dental care is not possible on an "awake" animal. We can not even perform a comprehensive dental exam without anesthesia since cats and dogs will not tolerate opening wide and holding still while we prod and poke and neither will they hold still for x-rays!! Only after the patient is under anesthesia can a comprehensive oral exam begin. These thorough exams very often uncover startlingly serious dental problems that are not apparent without anesthesia.
Properly cleaning the teeth involves scaling below the gum line and scraping away the tartar from any roots that are exposed or where the gum has separated from the tooth root ("pockets"). This is uncomfortable or even painful and just can't be done properly on an "awake" animal.
Ouch! That's expensive!
Preventing dental disease is cheap. Treating advanced dental disease can be expensive. One of the most sensible comments I've heard about dentistry was, "Pay a little now or a lot later." Your pet's toothbrush is free from AMC and a tube of toothpaste will last many months. This minimal investment a few minutes a day may be the best investment you can make in your pet's health! It is always easier, safer and cheaper to prevent disease or to treat it when caught at an early stage than to treat more advanced disease. So, the best thing for your pet's health and your wallet is to address dental health issues early, thoroughly and regularly!!
Unfortunately, when it comes to medicine, quality costs. The Dental Assessment, Hygiene & Treatment visit is a complicated, staff intensive, anesthetized medical (and often surgical) procedure that requires well-trained staff and a well-equipped hospital to do correctly. We invest in top quality staff and modern equipment. We take the time needed to provide meticulous care to our patients and thoughtful service to our clients. When faced with a choice of material, technique or equipment, we make the choices that make our procedures safer, more effective, less painful and in other ways superior to the alternatives.
We have made an ethical commitment to provide safe and humane care to all our patients. Because of this commitment, we routinely include all the essential elements of a safe, effective and humane procedure on all estimates (pain medications, IV catheter, IV fluids, patient warming, anesthesia monitoring, comprehensive dental assessment including charting and x-ray, age appropriate pre-anesthetic safety blood testing and/or urinalysis, etc.).
These important items may be "optional" add-on services at other practices, or, in other cases may not even be available at all. We are happy to explain our fees to you any time you have a concern. Comparing apples to apples, we are comfortable that we provide good value to our patients and clients and we know that we charge only what we need to in order to keep our doors open, keep practicing good medicine and keep compensating our staff fairly.
Have more questions??
On our Dental Health FAQs page, you will find answers to. . .
- How common is dental disease?
- Is dental disease painful?
- Can dental health affect my pet's behavior?
- This is all new to me! Why haven't I heard about pet dental care before?
- Now that veterinarians know how to provide good dental care, why aren't more pets getting it?
- At what age should dental care start?
- What do I need to do at home?
- Is there anything we should do for our puppy's (or kitten's) teeth?
- At what age does my pet need start annual Dental Assessment, Hygiene & Treatment visits?
- Does my pet need a Dental Assessment, Hygiene & Treatment visit?
- Is it ever too late for dental care?