Dental Care


Barb working on a dog’s teeth.

Why is dental care important?

Just like in people, routine dental care is important not only for health of the teeth and oral cavity but for overall health of your pet. Dental disease can cause pain, inability to eat and behavioral changes. There is evidence that bacteria from a diseased mouth may spread to other organs and cause health problems in sites remote from the mouth.

What are signs that my pet may need dental care?

Some common signs that dental care is needed include, bad breath, consistent drooling, brown or yellow build-up on the teeth, discolored teeth, broken teeth and red and/or bleeding gums. Cats may get red lesions not only on their gums but also in other locations in the mouth. Diseased teeth and gums can cause oral pain which is generally seen as changes in eating habits. For instance, your pet may have trouble eating hard food or may eat it, but very slowly or may chew it only on one side. Cats often approach their food and then walk away as if uninterested. Watch for changes in eating habits, weight loss, bad breath and any signs of pain when you touch your pet’s mouth or face.

The dog’s teeth are shiny, white and healthy after a thorough dental cleaning.

The dog’s teeth are shiny, white and healthy after a thorough dental cleaning.

What is a ‘dental’?

A ‘dental’ consists of a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment (sometimes called a ‘COHAT’). Appropriate dental cleaning and other dental procedures require that the animal be under general anesthesia since animals won’t tolerate the procedures. Once under anesthesia, just like in human dentistry, your pet’s teeth are examined for evidence of disease or decay and this information is charted for future reference. Then the gum tissue around each tooth is probed to assess the health of the tissue and the underlying tooth roots. Next the entire oral cavity, including the tongue, throat, and cheeks, is thoroughly examined. Finally, the teeth are cleaned ultrasonically to remove the tarter; any diseased, loose or painful teeth are removed if necessary; the enamel is polished; and the mouth is rinsed of all debris so that your pet returns home with a clean, healthy mouth and fresh breath!

When and how often should I have my pet’s teeth cleaned?

Routine, preventive cleaning is the best way to keep your pet healthy and a routine cleaning schedule should be discussed with your veterinarian. The frequency of cleaning cannot be determined without an exam since some pets need more frequent, and some less frequent, cleaning. Many small breed dogs are more prone to dental disease and require more frequent cleanings than other breeds of dogs. Large breed dogs tend to need less frequent cleanings. However, each patient is an individual and frequency of cleaning can only be determined by scheduling routine oral examinations. Cats are definitely individuals and the frequency of cleaning cannot be determined without an exam.

This dog has severe tartar build up and is in need of a dental cleaning!

This dog has severe tartar build up and is in need of a dental cleaning!

For routine cleaning, you may want to wait for one of the ‘Dental Months’ sponsored by Riverview Animal Clinic since dental procedures are discounted during those months. Be sure to ask the receptionist (509-758-5022) when the next Dental Month is scheduled. But anytime that dental disease is affecting overall health, causing your pet pain or making your pet not want to eat, the teeth should be evaluated right away!

Is dentistry painful for my pet?

Routine cleaning may cause some discomfort but is unlikely to be truly painful. However, because animals don’t understand that uncomfortable procedures may be performed to improve their health, veterinary dentistry is done under general anesthesia, which will decrease any discomfort that your pet might experience (see more information on our anesthesia page). To further decrease any discomfort that might occur during the dental procedure, at Riverview Animal Clinic we use pain relieving drugs (‘analgesics’) as part of our anesthetic protocol and we may recommend analgesic drugs for you to administer at home, especially if the dental disease was advanced and required more aggressive treatment. If teeth are extracted, we always use local anesthetic blocks (the same blocks that dentists that work on people use) and we will definitely provide you with analgesic medication to administer at home.

My pet is geriatric. Is dentistry really necessary and is it safe?

Older pets, like older people, may suffer a greater negative impact from disease than younger pets. Any disease, including dental disease, can negatively affect the overall health status of your geriatric pet. So, Yes! Dentistry is necessary in old pets with dental disease! Prior to anesthetizing your pet for a dentistry, we will do a thorough physical exam and complete blood work analysis and we may perform other tests. All of this is done to make sure that your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia. In addition, we utilize the latest in anesthesia drugs, monitoring of vital functions, support of physiological processes (like blood pressure) and pain control. For more information, see our anesthesia page.

What dental procedures does River Animal Clinic offer?

  • Thorough oral health exams
  • Routine ultrasonic cleaning and polishing
  • Cleaning and polishing of teeth with severe disease
  • Xrays of the skull and teeth
  • Removal of gingival hyperplasia
  • Extractions of diseased, broken or unhealthy teeth – these can be really painful to your pet!
  • Removal of deciduous (or ‘baby’) teeth – retained baby teeth can hinder the growth of permanent teeth or cause crowding with tarter buildup on healthy teeth.
  • And other dental procedures as recommended by our doctors

What can I do after my pet’s dental?

We offer guidance for brushing teeth and supplies such as toothpaste, brushes, and mouthrinse. Brushing teeth and using products that improve the oral health of your pet can extend the time between dental assessments and help your pet to have the best breath possible.

What types of chew toys do you recommend for my pet?

There is a complete list of veterinary-approved chew toys at this website: Veterinary Oral Council at http://www.vohc.org

For more information on veterinary dentistry, contact us at Riverview Animal Clinic (509-758-5022), or visit the American College of Veterinary Dentistry at http://www.avdc.org/ownersinfo.html or the Veterinary Oral Council at http://www.vohc.org