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10 Questions to Ask your Veterinarian
Before Your Pet’s Dental Procedure

Veterinary dentistry, in the general practice, has varying levels of “standard of care” for our canine and feline dental patients. Although many provide a very high level of care, there are others who may not.

As a pet parent, there are specific questions you can ask to find out what level of dentistry your primary care veterinarian provides their patients.

1. Will my pet be monitored during anesthesia, and if so how?

The ideal situation would include an anesthesia technician that is focused on the patient and tracking multiple parameters including pulse oximetry, respiration, temperature, blood pressure, EKG and CO2 output.

2. Will my pet be kept warm during anesthesia?

Some premedications and anesthesia, by nature, lower body temperature. Many smaller patients can become hypothermic (low body temperature) which can lead to anesthetic complications if not monitored and maintained by an external warming system.

3. Will intravenous fluids be provided while my pet is under anesthesia?

Some premedications and anesthesia, by nature, can lower blood pressure and cause some degree of strain on the kidneys. Intravenous fluids are important for our anesthetized patients to keep the kidneys perfused (flushed) and prevent issues following anesthesia.

4. Will a full assessment with dental X-ray be performed?

Without dental X-ray, disease can get missed. Periodontal disease is very prevalent, especially in small breed dogs. Unfortunately, just cleaning teeth will not have any benefit in treating disease that may be present under the gumline. Ideally, it’s best to find disease early when it can be treated and prevent extraction of teeth.

5. If disease is found once the assessment is completed, will I be contacted to discuss the treatment plan?

Because dental X-rays have to be taken while the pet is under anesthesia, the diagnosis won’t be found until that time. A short phone call to the pet parent provides an update of how the patient is doing under anesthesia, diagnosis of disease and what treatment will be needed. It’s best to keep the pet parent “in the loop” to reduce anxiety and get permission before proceeding with any type of treatment.

6. If early disease is found, can you provide periodontal therapy to treat early disease?

Periodontal therapy, including root planing is a skill that can be learned through continuing education provided by boarded veterinary dentists and technicians.

7. If advanced disease is found and extractions are needed, who will be performing oral surgery?

There are still some practices that allow technicians to perform oral surgery (extractions) instead of the veterinarian. Extractions are better defined as oral surgery and should only be performed by a veterinarian that has had instruction from a boarded dentist on oral surgical techniques.

8. What type of training has the veterinarian received to perform basic oral surgery (extractions)?

Unfortunately, most veterinarians do not receive any type of formal training in dentistry while in college. In most cases, any knowledge in dentistry is sought after graduation. There are many boarded veterinary dentists that provide optimum training in dentistry including diagnosis of disease, appropriate treatment of disease, and surgical techniques for extractions.

9. If oral surgery is needed, will pain management be provided, and if so what kind?

This is extremely important for dental patients, as oral surgery can be painful postoperatively. Regional nerve blocks (numbing the mouth) should be provided for any patient having any type of treatment beyond the basic cleaning. This allows the patient to be kept much lighter while under anesthesia, and provides for a pain free and smooth recovery from anesthesia. Again, continuing education is the key, as this is a skill that is also taught by boarded veterinarians and technicians.

10. How soon will my pet go home after the procedure?

Most patients do go home the same day as the procedure a few hours after recovery. Depending on how anesthesia is performed, some patients can recover and go home within an hour or so after they are in recovery.

By asking good questions, and knowing what is the optimum care that should be provided for your pet, you can make a good decision to proceed with your primary care veterinarian for a dental procedure. If not, then seeking a different general practice or a veterinary dentist is another option.

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