Brushing Up on Dental Health, Part 2: Exam Discoveries

Dr. Rebecca
Posted by Dr. Rebecca Jackson on May 03 2013


In Brushing Up on Dental Health, Part 1, we looked at what happens during a routine dental cleaning. But what if your vet finds something fishy, and needs to do more than just scale and polish?

This is why your vet will always ask for a good contact number for you to be reached during the day. We may need to call you while your pet is having their procedure to discuss what we are seeing and what we recommend. This is what makes dentals frustrating for pet parents and vets alike. We often don’t know what we are going to find until we get in there and take a look!

Some of these “next steps” can be done prior to your pet’s dental, but many times abnormalities aren’t discovered until after we have your pet anesthetized. Some things your vet might recommend include:

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Dental Radiographs: Remember the last time you went to the dentist and they took those bite wing X-rays? Dental radiographs are essential to identifying certain diseases in your pet’s mouth. It is the only way we can see anything below the gum line (and that’s where half the tooth lives!). Some vets will only take radiographs of certain teeth, while others will routinely recommend full-mouth radiographs. Just remember, this is the only way your vet can fully assess your pet’s entire mouth.

Extractions: One of the most frequent concerns I hear from pet parents when I recommend tooth extraction (or in some cases multiple extractions) is, “Will my pet still be able to eat?” The short answer is, yes, your pet will be able to eat just fine. The truth is that most pets don’t chew their food thoroughly; they just swallow it down whole. Furthermore, it’s okay to add water to your pet’s dry food for a few days after a dental to minimize discomfort (canned wet food is also an option). The most important thing to remember is that your vet is recommending the tooth (or teeth) be removed because it is diseased. It is better for your pet to be missing a few teeth than to live with disease in her mouth.

Growth removal or biopsy: If your vet finds an abnormal growth in your pet’s mouth, they will likely recommend that the mass be removed (if possible) or biopsied (this is where we take a sample of the growth). Your vet will then recommend that the sample be sent off to the lab for histopathology, or testing done to determine what the growth is and whether further treatment will be necessary. This is a very important test when abnormal growths are involved.

Root canals: Just like humans, sometimes pets will have disease within their tooth that necessitates a root canal. Not all vets are able to perform root canals, nor is every tooth a candidate for such. If your vet is recommending a root canal, make sure you discuss the pros and cons of the procedure before you decide to proceed. This can be a great solution if you are concerned about tooth extraction.

Staying ahead of dental disease will protect not just your pet’s mouth, but his overall health. So talk to your vet about your pet’s needs. You (and your four-legged friend) will be very happy that you did!

Has a routine dental exam ever led to the discovery of a more serious health problem in your pet? Tell us in the comments!


To more waggin’ and purrin’. Rwkj

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