What to Expect with Your Cat's Dental Procedure
Your cat's oral health is very important to their overall health and comfort. Gingivitis, tartar, decay and other teeth problems are very common in cats, and most cats have some degree of dental disease that needs to be addressed with a professional dental procedure. It's important for you to know what sort of care your cat will be receiving with their dental procedure, so we encourage you to ask questions! Veterinary clinics may differ on their protocols, tools they use, pain control offered, and overall philosophies of practicing veterinary medicine, so simply comparing price may not be the best way to determine where to schedule an oral surgical procedure.
Here at A Cat's View Veterinary Hospital, we offer the highest standard of dental care as recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association. We don't cut corners on any aspect of your cat's dental procedure, and we treat each patient as if it were our own cat.
It all starts with a thorough physical exam. Here the doctor will identify the degree of dental disease that can be see with the naked eye. They will also note any abnormalities with the gums, tongue, mucous membranes of the mouth, unusual smells, fractured teeth, or missing teeth. Before we begin, we want to see if your cat is a good candidate for an anesthetic procedure by our physical exam findings, appropriate diagnostics, such as bloodwork or imaging, and reviewing any previous medical history.
The dental procedure must be done under anesthesia for a few reasons. First, we cannot tell your cat to remain still while we work in their mouths, and with the feline head being such a delicate structure, any sudden movement they make could potentially do harm to themselves. We also want your cat to be comfortable; if they were awake, they may be anxious about all of the sounds, smells, and sensations associated with the cleaning. Finally, and most importantly, if there are any teeth that need to be extracted then we would need to perform oral surgery which would certainly require them to be under anesthesia. We intubate (meaning that we put a breathing tube in their airway) so that we can help assist with their breathing if needed and to help prevent water from the dental procedure from going down their airways.
Every cat gets an IV catheter so that we can administer treatments such as pain medication or antibiotics directly, provide fluid therapy during and after the procedure, and deliver any emergency drugs, if needed. Fluid therapy is so important in the feline to make sure their blood pressure stays at an appropriate level; if they have too low of blood pressure during a long procedure it can be harmful to the kidneys, which are an already sensitive organ in the cat. We also provide heat support through means of a heated blanket; this is because the anesthesia can affect how their body regulates their temperature.
Your cat will have a dedicated anesthetic technician throughout their procedure whose sole responsibility is to monitor their heart rate, breathing, oxygen level, temperature, and blood pressure. Everything is recorded and adjustments to their anesthesia are made accordingly.
We utilize high-quality digital dental radiography to take full-mouth x-rays on every patient. This is important so that we can evaluate the whole tooth, not just the part above the gum line. Most often, the dental disease is affecting the part of the tooth below the gum line.
Next, we probe each tooth individually at the gum line and record the amount of pocketing we observe. We use a dental mapping chart to record the findings for each tooth. Using the information from the physical exam, the appearance of the teeth and gums, the x-rays, and the probing, the veterinarian will decide which, if any, teeth need to be extracted. A nerve block is performed, where we inject numbing medication near the site of the extractions. This is to prevent pain before the extraction process is even started. Once numbed, the tooth is removed, roots and all, using a combination of hand tools and high-speed drills. We are careful to smooth the area left behind where the tooth used to be and close up the gum tissue with dissolvable sutures. Following the extractions, we always take x-rays again to make sure there are no root tips left behind. Sometimes, if an extraction is not done properly, parts of the root can be left behind and may cause pain, inflammation, or infection.
The remaining teeth are then cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler that removes the tartar from the tooth's visible surface and below the gum line as well. We polish them similar to how your teeth are cleaned at the dentist to clean and smooth the surface of the teeth. A sealant is applied to help prevent plaque and bacteria from accumulating.
Once the procedure is over, your cat will recover from anesthesia with close and careful monitoring of a technician, along with heat support and oxygen. The recovery period can be a critical time, so we take it very seriously to ensure your cat is safe and comfortable.
Even after they are fully recovered, we like to keep them on IV fluids to keep them hydrated and to facilitate giving other supportive care treatments with minimal stress to them. These other treatments are typically antibiotics, pain control, and sometimes appetite stimulants, if needed. The strength and duration of their pain medication will depend on the involvement of their procedure and the number of extractions. Our goal is for your cat to be comfortable and pain-free from beginning to end.
We take pride in the work that we do, and we want you to feel confident that your cat will receive the very best treatment and attention to detail under our care. If you have any questions or concerns about your cat's dental procedure, please ask one of our veterinarians or technicians about it and we'll be happy to answer!
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