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Dental Care for Dogs

One of the most common problems we encounter in our pets is dental disease. Bad teeth, left untreated, can cause pain and infection in our dogs and cats. It can be mild or serious and may affect your pet’s overall health. As part of our preventive health care, we do a thorough oral examination whenever possible, and may recommend brushing, dental treats, and/or dental cleaning in the clinic. We carry certain products which can assist in pet oral health.

Just like humans, our dogs and cats can benefit immensely from regular professional examinations and cleanings at our hospital.

What types of canine dental care services are offered at your hospital?

It’s Not Just a Cleaning, It’s a COHAT!

What exactly is a COHAT, you ask? It is an acronym coined by Veterinary Dentists that stands for “Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment.” It starts with thorough patient history, including a review of diet, chewing habits, and home care strategies currently in place, and as thorough an oral examination as the patient will allow in the examination room. It can allow us to find early signs of dental disease and develop a problem list.

Once a problem is identified, together with illustrative tools such as models and diagrams, our doctors will describe any current oral disease processes, and develop a treatment plan.

Grey divider line with paw print

A “dentistry” at Westbridge Veterinary Hospital is a complete oral examination under anesthesia. It is performed not only to clean the teeth but also to evaluate the oral cavity for any other problems that might be present. What we can’t see is more important than what we can. It is why “non-anesthetic” cleaning is NOT a viable option. At our hospital, every pet receives the following care to give our patients the maximum benefits:

  1. Prior to any procedure, a full physical examination is performed to ensure your pet is in good health. Note that the age of the patient is not a factor in preventing good dental care.
  2. Once your pet is sedated, we thoroughly evaluate the “bite” (the dental occlusion). This is how the teeth are aligned. Malalignment can cause pain and tooth loss if teeth are impacting each other inappropriately.
  3. Before the prophylaxis can begin, the patient must be placed under general anesthetic. This will greatly increase patient comfort and the effectiveness of cleaning. Also, it allows us to properly protect the lungs from the bacteria that is being removed from the teeth by placing an endotracheal tube.
  4. Once your pet is anesthetized, a detailed oral examination is performed. All hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity and are examined, and findings accurately recorded in the patient file.
  5. Whole mouth intra-oral dental radiographs are taken at this point. All dental patients require whole mouth intra-oral dental radiographs to allow assessment of the teeth and surrounding bone. Did you know that 60% or more of each tooth is hidden from view? Dental radiographs are required to provide optimal dental care for this reason.
  6. The mouth is flushed with an antibacterial solution.
  7. Dental calculus (tartar) is removed using an ultrasonic scaler.
  8. The soft tissues at several points around every tooth are probed, and abnormal depths are recorded on the dental chart.
  9. Crowns (the tooth surface above the gum line) are examined and explored for damage (abrasive wear, fractures, discolouration) and findings recorded on the chart.
  10. Following the more detailed clinical and radiographic examination, the treatment plan is created by the veterinarian. New findings and treatment options are communicated to the owner to obtain informed consent if extractions or other work by the veterinarian is needed.
  11. All teeth are hand scaled above and below the gum line to remove any remaining mineralized deposits (calculus, tartar).
  12. Teeth are polished above and below the gum line. This smooths the surface of the tooth, slowing the new accumulation of plaque and tartar.
  13. The oral cavity and gingival sulci (area of the gums that surround the teeth) is flushed to remove all debris.
  14. Your pet is then recovered in a warm and comfortable environment and will be ready to go home later that evening.
  15. We book your pet’s next COHAT. For cats and small/toy breed dogs, we recommend every 6-8 months and every 12-24 months for larger breed dogs.

What is pet dental radiography and what is it used for?

Digital dental radiography is an asset to a complete oral health examination. Below are some examples of where dental radiography has helped our patients and a more detailed description of its benefits:

  • Crown: The part of the tooth in the black portion of the image. It represents the part of the tooth that is visible in the mouth.
  • Enamel: It is the hardest substance in the body, and envelops and protects the inner portions of a tooth.
  • Dentin: A mineralized substance which makes up the bulk of a tooth, and serves to protect the pulp cavity (see below for definition).
  • Pulp Cavity: Seen as the darker gray line in the dentin, this is the central cavity of a tooth containing the pulp, including the root canal, containing blood vessels and nerves, allowing a fresh supply of nutrients and blood for each tooth.
  • Periodontal Ligament: Seen as a black line surrounding the root of the tooth, this is a group of specialized connective tissue fibers that attach a tooth to the alveolar bone within which it sits. These fibers help the tooth withstand the substantial compressive forces which occur during chewing and keep the tooth embedded in the bone.
  • Alveolar Bone: A thickened layer of bone lining containing the tooth sockets on bones that bare teeth.

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

Although brushing cannot completely replace a proper dental cleaning, scaling and polishing, ideally, a dog’s teeth should be brushed after each meal. But aiming for brushing at least once a day can greatly benefit your pet’s oral health.


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