Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Dental Care

Dog and Cat - Frequently asked questions about your pet's dental careAt Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists we understand you may have questions about your pet's dental needs and what kind of veterinary dental care they require. We have covered a few common pet owner questions below, however if you have further questions or think your pet needs an exam, please contact us.

Should I bring my pet in because of a broken tooth?
Does my pet need to have regular checkups for gingivitis or periodontal disease?
Does my pet need a veterinary dentist?
Are there alternatives to extracting my pet’s teeth?
Does my pet need anesthesia for their dental procedure?
Is my pet too old for Anesthesia?
Do you offer payment plan options?

Should I bring my pet in because of a broken tooth?
Broken or fractured teeth are a common finding in veterinary practices. Objects that are notorious for breaking teeth include cow hooves, real bones, rocks, ice, large knotted rawhides, and hard plastic/nyla-bones. The result is often fracture of a tooth that may or may not extend into the pulp canal of the tooth. The pulp canal is the chamber within the tooth that houses the pulp tissue, blood vessels and nerves. If the fracture exposes the pulp canal, which houses the blood and nerve supply to the tooth, the tooth will be acutely painful. Most pets, however, do not show obvious signs of tooth pain, even when there is severe dental disease. These pets will typically chew on the other side of the mouth or avoid using the broken tooth until the nerve dies in a matter of weeks to months. Once the nerve dies, the open pulp canal is an area that food, saliva, debris, and bacteria enter the tooth resulting in an infection of the pulp tissue. The root of the tooth then becomes infected and will eventually abscess. The pain associated with the broken tooth changes from an acute pain to a chronic pain. Antibiotics will help control the infection temporarily, but the problem recurs after discontinuing the medication. The infection will persist until the source of the infection, the infected pulp, is removed either by extracting the tooth or by root canal therapy. We advise root canal treatment for most abscessed teeth.

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Does my pet need to have regular checkups for gingivitis or periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is considered by many veterinarians to be the most common disease that affects pets. Most cats and dogs develop plaque, calculus, and gingivitis by the time they are 1 year of age. Lack of oral hygiene is probably the most significant reason for the development of periodontal disease in companion animals. Periodontal disease results in inflammation and destruction of the tissues around the tooth. The periodontal tissues include: the gums, connective tissue, and alveolar bone (tooth socket). Gingivitis, inflammation of the gums, is the first stage of periodontal disease. As periodontal disease progresses there is destruction of tissue attachment between tooth and the surrounding tissues. There is visible inflammation and the loss of bone around the tooth. The loss of gum tissue attachment and bone results in “pockets” of disease below the gum line. This is called periodontal disease. Untreated periodontal disease is a constant source of infection for the rest of the body. Eventually, it leads to weakened areas of bone, mobile teeth, and tooth loss. Keeping your pets teeth clean is the best way to treat and prevent periodontal disease. Because, the periodontal disease is hidden below the gum line, a professional teeth cleaning with dental x-rays, under anesthesia is the only way to properly diagnose and treat periodontal disease.

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Does my pet need a veterinary dentist?
Most veterinarians perform general dental examinations, teeth cleaning and extraction of diseased teeth. A veterinary dentist is a veterinarian that has completed additional training and board certification in dentistry. Since the veterinary dentist is trained in oral surgery, medicine and dentistry, a wide range of special treatment options can be offered for dogs and cats with oral and dental problems. In some instances a veterinary dentist can offer alternatives to tooth extraction not available at a general veterinary office.

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Are there alternatives to extracting my pet’s teeth?
Often there are alternatives to extraction of teeth that we can offer in our office. We can perform advanced procedures such as root canal treatment and crown restoration to save broken or abscessed teeth. Gum surgery and tissue regeneration surgery can be performed to save teeth affected with advanced periodontal disease. These special procedures are not available at most veterinary clinics and extraction is often advised by the attending veterinarian. Referral to veterinary dentist for a second opinion may offer alternatives to save teeth that otherwise would be extracted.

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Does my pet need anesthesia for their dental procedure?
A complete dental examination, teeth cleaning, and dental x-rays cannot be performed on a dog or cat without anesthesia. Groomers or other organizations which claim to clean a pet’s teeth do not clean between the teeth, under the gum-line or take x-rays of the teeth. Not cleaning these areas will lead to chronic periodontal disease. This chronic infection under the gum line will lead to abscessed teeth and can harm the heart, kidneys and other vital organ systems. Anesthesia is most clients’ number one concern and most common reason for resisting having dental procedures done on their pets. We recognize this is a legitimate concern for pet owners and try to make every attempt to make anesthesia as safe as possible. A board certified veterinary anesthesiologist, Dr. Victoria Lukasik, is available in our office for consultation. She is available for high risk patients with special anesthesia needs. Read about the risks of anesthesia free pet dental care.

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Is my pet too old for Anesthesia?
We frequently meet pet owners worried about anesthesia since another veterinarian has previously told them that their pet was "too old for anesthesia." Let's consider the facts with regard to age and anesthesia risks. Age is not a disease and does not directly reflect health status. We all know of healthy older people (or pets) and young people with poor health. Our doctors prefer to evaluate each pet individually to accurately assess health status. Anesthesia is individualized for patients based on their health. Health problems are addressed with well-planned anesthesia protocols. Our doctors choose anesthetic drugs based on the pet's health status to help avoid problems with anesthesia.

Fortunately patients with health problems can have safe anesthesia and receive excellent dental care! The risks of anesthesia are substantially reduced by the veterinary professionals providing care. Anesthetic related death in pets is estimated to be less than 1%. The likelihood of pain and suffering from untreated disease approaches 100%. We prefer to treat dental disease to avoid unnecessary suffering. It is well worth the risk! Do we want our companions to live a long life with chronic pain? 
The services of a Board Certified anesthesiologist are available at our office if requested or needed.

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Do you offer payment plan options?
We accept all major credit cards and we offer Care Credit flexible payment plans. Some things in life can be put off. Fortunately quality health care doesn’t have to be one of them. With Care Credit:

  • No Interest payment plans (if paid within the promotional period)
  • Low monthly payments & no pre-payment penalties
  • No annual fees
  • Receive application decisions almost instantly
  • Start your pet’s treatment immediately

Get approved for Care Credit now by visiting www.carecredit.com  

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Quick Links & Info

  • Professional Vet Dental Cleaning +

    Your pet's annual veterinary dental cleaning is an important part of keeping them healthy. Read More
  • Patient Forms & Portal +

    Complete your patient forms prior to your pet's appointment and access our new patient portal to manage your account, appointments and more. Read More
  • Pet Dental FAQs +

    Answers to some of your common questions about pet dental health and veterinary dentistry. Read More
  • For Referring Veterinarians +

    We work closely with our referring colleagues and we are committed to a smooth referral process for you and your client. Read More
  • Veterinary CE Seminars for Doctors and Techs +

    We offer excellent educational opportunities for veterinary professionals. Join us for lunch time CE's and seminars. Read More
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