Dentistry

At McKenzie Veterinary Services we have a dental suite that has been designed, equipped and dedicated just to performing modern veterinary dentistry. Several of our veterinarians have advanced training and knowledge of all aspects of performing dental procedures. Our registered animal health technicians who assist with anesthesia and dental cleanings also have done courses to maintain a high proficiency in performing dental work and patient monitoring. Our dental suite is equipped with a state of the art dental digital x-ray machine, new dental equipment for cleaning, polishing, drilling and extracting teeth, over head lighting and anesthesia machines and monitoring devices. These investments in training and equipment are what distinguish our dentistry from many places that offer pet dentistry.

Why is dental health important?

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You don’t have to look further than the human experience to understand why oral health is just as important in pets as in people. Imagine what your teeth and breath would be like if you never brushed or flossed, it would be as it was for ancient man who lost most of their teeth to dental decay and infection by the age of 30! The pain that we feel when we have an abscessed root in a tooth can make living unbearable for us and make us run for the nearest dentist. Now imagine your pet’s suffering with multiple infected teeth! But they don’t know that life can be any different or that the pain can be taken away and so they sometimes suffer with quiet dignity until it gets so bad they stop eating. And it has to get pretty bad before a dog or cat will stop eating, because hunger is a strong motivator for eating even if it means painful chewing. Many older dogs and cats walk around in a state of constant dental pain without their owners realizing it. And so it is not surprising that many owners report their dog or cats’ behaviour changes immensely for the better after they have had a dentistry to remove a mouthful of rotten and painful teeth.

Chronic periodontal disease and bacterial infections in teeth really drag an older dog or cat down…and it may also put them at risk of developing infections in other organs, such as the heart, the kidney and the liver. So it is important to always be aware of what is happening in your pet’s mouth and start then on a regime of oral health care through diets, brushing, dental health products and regular dental cleanings as recommended by your veterinarian. At McKenzie Veterinary Services, our goal is prevent your pet from ever having to require a major dentistry by keeping their oral cavity healthy starting from birth. However, once gum disease and dental disease have set in, our goal becomes preventing it from getting worse and reversing the damage as your pet ages.

When should you be concerned about your pets’ oral health?

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There are many indicators of problems with teeth and gums which you can determine just by examining your animals mouth. Heavy tartar, red and inflamed gums, bad breath, trouble chewing or chewing on one side, drooling, pawing at the mouth, swellings under the eyes or along the jaw and a sudden decrease in appetite. Some pets, often the ones with sore mouths, refuse to let owners look inside their mouths, and so if you suspect that there may be dental issues, it is always important to bring your pet in for a detailed oral exam by the vet. We can then make recommendations and provide an estimate for the costs of the necessary dental work.

Veterinary Dentistry under general anesthesia vs a no-anesthesia cleaning by non-vet.

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At McKenzie Veterinary Services we are often asked why, when there are local businesses which can legally offer dental scaling in pets without anesthesia for a few hundred dollars, should I have my pets’ teeth cleaned at the vet clinic under general anesthesia? The answer to this question really comes from asking….Why is it that veterinarians do not offer no-anesthesia dental cleanings?

24HourEmergencyWe believe that it is fundamentally more stressful and painful to a pet to attempt to “clean” teeth using an ultrasonic or hand scaler on a struggling, awake pet then when under anesthesia. The dental cleaning on a struggling dog is simply not going to be thorough, not only because of the struggling of the pet, but also because of the difficulty in reaching and cleaning tartar from under the gum line (the most important area to clean) or on the inside surfaces of the teeth. Without x-rays one cannot address disease conditions happening below the gum line.

Our experience has been that anesthesia is extremely safe and most pets recovery very quickly. Under anesthesia, the pet does not experience any pain, nor are they stressed during the procedure. General anesthesia combined with local anesthesia (nerve blocks) enables us to perform a complete evaluation of not only the gums and crown, but also an assessment of each tooth by probing the gingival for pockets or cavities and, most importantly, evaluating below the gum line with digital x-rays, to determine what is happening to the tooth roots.

Cat and dog sizedSo you can see that there is so much more to doing a proper prophylactic dental than just taking off obvious tartar on the outside surface of the teeth. A proper dental cleaning ends with the ultrasonic scaling and polishing of all surfaces. Our dental cleanings start with a veterinarian performing a tooth by tooth inspection and evaluation for gingival pockets, mobile teeth, oral tumors and a full mouth x-rays series to enable an evaluation of the roots of each tooth. It is very common to see what appears to be a fairly healthy tooth crown but then to find x-ray evidence cavities in the root or an abscess around the root tip. Those teeth may need to be surgically extracted and only a veterinarian is legally able to perform dental extractions. If diseased teeth are found during an annual dental scaling, then measures can be taken at that time to correct the problem so that you pet does not have to suffer or undergo an additional anesthetic. This really helps your pet and saves you money also!

Pediatric Dentistry is Important

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There are many common problems in puppies that owners need to be aware of and have corrected at the appropriate time. Small breed dogs and dogs with short snouts are especially prone to having dental conditions called malocclusions (a crooked bite, teeth not fitting together properly, undershod or overshod jaws, etc), rotated teeth and missing teeth. At McKenzie Veterinary Services, we are especially aware of these problems and will generally make recommendations for the removal of retained baby teeth( baby teeth should fall out by 5 months of age), rotated teeth, dental cysts when pups are being spayed at around 5 -6 months so that their adult teeth have a chance to properly erupt and allow a normal bite to form. When performed at the time of sterilization, it saves owners money and puts the pet through only one anesthetic.

Dentistry costs do not seem expensive when you know what is involved and realize the benefits of dental work for you pet.

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At McKenzie Veterinary Services we have affordably priced our dental prophylactic scaling and polishing procedures ($700 to $850, pre-anesthetic blood work is extra) to encourage owners to have their pet’s oral health maintained on a regular baisis. All of our routine dental cleanings include the general anesthesia with IV fluids and monitoring, full dental x-rays, charting and assessment of all teeth, full surface scaling and polishing, subgingival curettage, post operative pain control (when needed) and a free dental recheck 2 weeks post dental. During the recheck, our dental technician will demonstrate how to brush your pet’s teeth and discuss dental products which are suitable for you to use to help maintain a healthy mouth.

Dentistry with dental surgical extractions- what is involved and why so expensive?

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In general, dentistry which requires the surgical extraction of diseased or abscessed teeth is at a whole different level of dental expertise and requires specific training in the diagnosis and surgical extraction of diseased teeth. Lay dentists are legally unable to perform dental surgical extractions and they must refer patients to veterinarians.

Every dentistry requiring a veterinarian to extract teeth, the same steps that are performed in a routine cleaning apply. Full oral inspection, full dental x-rays and scaling and polishing are performed first. We often discover by probing around teeth and with x-rays that many teeth have abscessed roots, severe bone loss around roots, sometimes making them loose if they are single rooted teeth, or firmly held in by the other roots which have not abscessed. In cats we often see resorptive lesions (cavities) at the crown gum interface as well as extending below the gum line and eroding the roots. We determine which teeth are diseased and require extractions and set about to plan the surgical extractions.

smiley dog!

smiley dog!

Removing a tooth requires the additional pain control provided by regional nerve blocks with local anesthetics such as bupivicaine. This is the same as the “freezing” a dentist will use on us to numb the area before repairing a cavity. Once we have applied the nerve block the surgical extraction can proceed without having to resort to a deep plane of gas anesthesia for pain control. This is one reason why it is that, despite dental procedure being often quite lengthy procedures, the patient recovers quickly because they have been on a sufficient but low level of gas anesthesia, enough to keep them still on the dental table, i.e. the local freezing is doing the work! And the freezing takes hours to wear off which is why pets seldom wake up roughly after having dentistry done…they can’t feel any pain.

rsz_abnormal-tooth-development-with-abscess_250To extract a double or triple rooted tooth, which is the majority of teeth in a cat or dogs mouth (only incisor, canines and some of the tiny rear molars have single roots), requires careful, precise and patient work. A gum flap is created and the gums elevated to reveal the bone around the tooth, then a portion of the bone is burred away to expose the root and the tooth is split (bisected or trisected) with a dental drill bit so that each of the root can be removed separately. We use instruments called elevators to carefully weaken the periodontal ligament which holds the root into the boney socket, then elevate and remove each root separately. Once all of tooth has been removed, the sockets are flushed out with antiseptic and the gum flap is closed with fine suture material. It may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes to surgically extract a tooth, so you can see why if a pet requires many teeth to be removed, these can be lengthy ( and more expensive) procedures.

Once all teeth have been removed the patients mouth is thoroughly rinsed of blood and debris, the anesthetic gas is turned off and they are transferred to recovery where they are extubated and monitored closely. When fully recovered they are sent home with an anti-biotic and medications to control post dental inflammation and pain.

rsz_helendentalSo you can see from this description why dentistry when it is more than simple cleaning, involves a great deal of thorough investigation, planning, expertise and time under a general anesthetic. This is why you don’t want your pet’s teeth to ever get this bad…it can seriously affect your pet’s health and it will end up costing a considerable amount to remedy the problems created by poor oral health. The benefits of performing dentistry at any stage of dental disease are enormous in improving the quality of a pet’s life, especially as they age. People are often amazed at the change, for the better, in a pet’s attitude (pain gone), energy level (no longer dealing with low grade infections), appetite (it doesn’t hurt to eat any more) and breath (they can sleep on your pillow at night without you gagging). Happy pet, happy owner!