Written by Christi Layten CVT, Dental Technician

Resourcing Vickie Byard CVT,VTS (Dentistry), CVJ and PetED Veterinary Education and Training Resources

Although many people don’t realize it dental health can cause pets severe chronic pain. Caring for your pet’s teeth is one of the surest ways to provide your dog or cat with a high quality of life. The paragraphs below detail the whys and hows of dental procedures at Animal Medical Center.

Pain Perception in Pets

Imagine you having a badly infected tooth abscess. Your face is not yet swollen but it does hurt. You would be vocal – complaining about it and you’d probably decrease the amount of food you ate and you may even start to lay around because you would have no energy. These actions would get you attention and probably a visit to your dentist for much-needed relief.

If an animal in the wild acted in this same manner and showed pain in the above examples, they would draw in predators and eventually be someone’s “lunch” so to speak. Not the best outcome at all.  Throughout evolution animals that did NOT SHOW any outward signs of pain, were more likely to live and therefore reproduce, ultimately passing down that stoic trait to their offspring.

At Animal Medical Center, we see many pets suffer in silence. Most are still eating and acting okay BUT when they get treatment for oral concerns owners tell us that they are more active (like a puppy again), they are playing with toys that they haven’t played with for years, they are more excited to go to the food bowl, and they are more social and interested in people.

Does dentistry have to be done under anesthesia? YES!!

In order to provide a SAFE experience for your pet, general anesthesia is required for dental prophylaxis at Animal Medical Center  This is because scaling to remove tartar is accomplished using an ultrasonic power scaler and various sharp hand tools. Also, the vibrations and high pitched tones associated with the power scaler are very upsetting to dogs and cats.  Most importantly, it is impossible to clean under the gum line where the periodontal disease is active without pain that wouldn’t be tolerated by a conscience pet. Periodontal disease is the number one reason to perform a dental cleaning.

A local anesthetic or light sedation is not adequate because of the time and depth it takes to complete an adequate dental cleaning. We cannot expect an animal to be still for 1-3 hours. Additionally, we do not know if we will need to perform extractions or do other more painful procedures until we can really look in the mouth. Humans know what is happening and can control fear and anxiety, pets cannot.

How can I minimize the risks of general anesthesia for my pet?

  1.  Home care such as brushing can minimize the length of the procedure.
  2.  Approve the suggested bloodwork. The bloodwork evaluates your pet’s organs to ensure that they are fully healthy.
  3.  Approve the suggested catheter and fluid therapy. This regulates blood pressure and provides an open port for medication during the procedure.
  4.  Talk with our Dental Techs about breaking up the procedure into smaller anesthetic times for more extensive corrective procedures.
  5.  Follow all pre-op instructions.



A preventative procedure is shorter than a corrective procedure.


What is my pet’s dental experience like?

Procedure Prep – Before any medications or anesthesia is administered to your pet, Animal Medical Center veterinarians and technicians take all vital signs and examine your pet. They review any previous lab results and your pet’s history as a final check to ensure that anesthesia can be safely administered. Based on their review, your pet’s anesthesia plan is tailored to meet your pet’s specific needs. If you opt for an intravenous catheter, it would provide critical access and support that enables us to control and monitor the anesthesia being administered.

Anesthesia – Your pet will be monitored by your Dental Technician and Veterinarian at all times during the anesthetic process. From pre-operative care to recovery, your pet will be monitored using Pulse Oximetry.

Dental Procedure – Dental procedures typically take 1-2 hours. The main difference between your experience at the dentist and your pets is the need for general anesthesia. Without anesthesia, a full oral examination cannot be performed on your pet. An Animal Medical Center Dental Technician monitors your pet’s vital signs and general anesthesia which ensures that your pet is comfortable throughout the entire procedure.

Your Dental Technician cleans your pet’s teeth, measures the pocket depths, and records them on a chart. We often suggest taking a full set of x-rays, which will allow us to find abnormalities otherwise hidden or difficult to detect. If our findings present a potential for additional necessary dental work, we will call you right away to discuss our recommendations and associated costs before moving ahead with any additional procedures. This is why it is critical that you are available by phone the entire day of the procedure.

Summary – Once your pet’s procedure is complete, the dental technician will call you personally to report on the outcome of your pet’s dental procedure. When you pick up your pet, we provide a Summary with details of the procedure, answer any questions you may have, and go over discharge instructions to help you understand the results and aid your pet in a quick recovery.

Care Calls – Our staff conducts routine Care Calls to follow up on all of our sick patients. Not only does this provide us with feedback on your pet’s recovery, but it also gives you the opportunity to ask questions regarding any medications or follow-up instructions.

At Animal Medical Center, your pet’s overall health is very important to us. If you ever have any questions or need to understand more about a dental procedure, please don’t hesitate to ask. We have Dental Technicians on staff every day and are available to perform our always FREE Dental Exam on your pet and answer your questions.

Have questions?

We’re here to help! Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!