February 02, 2022 Dentistry

Five Things to Know About Your Pet’s Annual Dental Exam

Veterinarian with orange cat

Five Things to Know About Your Pet’s Annual Dental Exam

February is Pet Dental Health Month. The foundation of good dental health in dogs and cats is a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment plan, also known as a COHAT. For many pet owners, a COHAT is a mystery since the procedure is performed under anesthesia and out of the public eye. To give pet families a glimpse into what happens when their favorite fur person visits a veterinary dentist, I outline five things that happen during a COHAT. 

1. Full Tooth Evaluation

The most important step of a COHAT is for the dentist to evaluate every tooth under general anesthesia. General anesthesia allows each tooth to be closely examined, both on the check and tongue side. But a COHAT does not start with general anesthesia. It starts with a preanesthetic physical examination, blood tests, and occasionally some x-rays. Based on these results, your pet’s dental team will create an individualized anesthetic plan. During anesthesia, your pet’s dental team will monitor vital signs using electronic equipment for measuring blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels in the blood stream. A warming blanket is used to help maintain the pet’s normal body temperature. Although some veterinary clinics advertise “anesthesia-free dental cleanings,” it is impossible to perform a full and thorough COHAT without anesthesia.

2. X-Rays

Pet dental x-ray
X-ray of a dog’s tooth

AMC’s Dentistry service obtains dental x-rays routinely during a COHAT. Seventy percent of a tooth is below the gumline and, without x-rays, the dentist can only evaluate the thirty percent that is visible. X-rays also allow identification of bone loss in the jaw and abscesses around the tooth root.

3. Dental Charting

Complete dental charting is another critical component of a COHAT. Using a species-specific chart – one for dogs and one for cats – the dentist records any abnormalities, such as a periodontal pocket. These abnormalities include fractures, malpositioned teeth, discolored teeth, gum recession, the presence of periodontal pockets at the gumline and the presence of oral tumors.

4. Tooth Cleaning

Just like when you go to the dentist, a veterinary dentist cleans each tooth ultrasonically to remove plaque and tartar. Then the teeth are polished and, in special cases, the teeth are treated to prevent plaque buildup.

5. Tooth Extraction (if necessary)

Hopefully all your pet’s teeth are healthy. If they are not, your pet’s dentist will extract any unhealthy teeth. The dental team will take more x-rays to ensure every bit of tooth root is removed. Then they will suture the gum shut over the opening left when the tooth is extracted.

For more on pet dental tips for Pet Dental Health Month, see previous years’ blog posts below!

Tags: cat dental care, dentistry, dog dental care, pet dental health, pet dental health month, pet dental hygiene, pet dental month, pet dentistry, veterinary dentistry,

Related Posts

  • Dentistry
    A feline dentistry patient
    February 03, 2021

    Pet Dental Health Month: Common Issues and Conditions

    Learn More
  • Dentistry
    A fractured dog's tooth
    February 06, 2019

    Dental Don’ts in Celebration of National Pet Dental Month

    Learn More
  • Blog Dentistry
    A veterinarian examines a dog's teeth
    February 07, 2018

    February is National Pet Dental Health Month

    Learn More