Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (or COHAT) is a thorough assessment of an animal's mouth while forming a treatment plan to address any disease that might be found. Modern oral care of pets is so much more than "a dental" and is a critical part of the well-being of the animals that we love.

The standard of care in pet dentistry, as with human dentistry, involves providing appropriate dental care and oral health services to ensure the well-being of an animal's oral cavity. Early detection and treatment are critical for whole body health and to prevent pain. While we can provide a general overview of the standard of care in pet dentistry, it is important to note that specific guidelines and standards may evolve over time as we continue to learn more and develop better techniques. Hurridly "scraping the teeth clean" so the surface looks good but never evaluating for deep bone and tooth-root disease is a practice best left in the past. It is essential to consult with a licensed veterinarian who is knowledgable and skilled in modern dentistry or seek out a board certified veterinary dentist for the most up-to-date information.

Performing a Dental ExamWhat are the key factors to consider in the standard of care in dentistry for pets?

Dental Screening Exams: We perform an awake visual oral exam of your pet’s teeth and gums during their regular checkups looking for early signs of problems. We also review prior dental and medical history to provide clues into underlying problems.

Pre-anesthesia Lab-work: We want to make sure your pet is a great candidate for general anesthesia. A comprehensive blood profile to evaluate organ health along with a physical exam is completed prior to the procedure. For some patients, chest radiographs, urinalysis, or advanced blood testing may be needed to assess underlying health more fully.

Anesthesia: General anesthesia is necessary to give each tooth proper attention and care. Our patients will simply not allow us to perform all the necessary components needed for a dental. “Non-anesthetic” cleanings are not comparable and are purely cosmetic; they do nothing to address disease below the gum line. In fact, the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) states that it is impossible to perform a thorough sub-gingival cleaning without anesthesia. This is because probing and scaling beneath the gums would be very painful and frightening to pets when they are awake. Also, it is impossible to take dental radiographs with an animal that is awake.  Anesthesia can be scary for some pet owners but if considering the benefits, preoperative planning, monitoring, and supportive care, anesthesia can be safe.

Comprehensive Oral Exam: When a dental procedure is performed under general anesthesia, this gives us the opportunity to fully assess the oral cavity. We evaluate the mouth for any ulcers, swelling, masses or areas of inflammation, then we evaluate each tooth for pocketing, mobility, discoloration, fractures, and more.

Dental Radiographs (x-rays): Just like in human dentistry, dental radiographs help diagnose dental issues that are not visible on the surface.Dental X-Ray Whole-mouth radiographs will show problems with tooth roots, abscesses, bone loss, thinning jawbone, or even whole teeth hidden under the gum line. Radiographs are a necessity in any dental work being performed on pets. There is no other way to correctly diagnose and treat diseases that lurk under the gums. In fact, studies show that at least half of dental cleanings performed on cats and dogs without radiographs will miss painful oral disease. Steer away from any dental care that does not include imaging because painful conditions like abscesses and other tooth root disease will be missed leaving your pet to go home with painful, infected mouths. Veterinary dental procedures performed without the benefit of dental x-ray, quite frankly, are a waste of money and an undue anesthetic risk for the patient. Performing dentistry on animals without diagnostic imaging suchs digital dental x-rays is considered to be malpractic by many veterinary professionals.

Professional Dental Cleaning: Dental cleaning in dogs and dental cleaning in cats are needed to remove plaque and tartar (calculus) from the tooth surface above and below the gum line. This procedure needs to be performed under anesthesia to ensure thorough cleaning of all the teeth. After the teeth are thoroughly cleaned, the tooth surface is polished.

Dental Suite at The Hometown VeterinarianTreatment of Dental Disease: Our priority is the elimination of pain and infection of your pet’s mouth. Treatment for dental conditions may include tooth extractions, endodontic therapy (root canals), restorative procedures, and biopsies.

Patient Monitoring: Anesthetic monitoring is vital for successful procedures. While the veterinarian is working on your pet's mouth, a veterinary surgical assistant closely watches and uses electronic monitors to ensure that all is well during the procedure and as well as through recovery to ensure safety and comfort.

Pain Management: Pain management starts proactively from the beginning to help keep your pet calm and comfortable. If your pet undergoes dental surgery, pain management care during and post-operatively are initiated to ensure a comfortable recovery.

Record-Keeping: Detailed digital dental records are important for tracking your pet’s oral health history and planning future treatments. We keep permanent electronic records, including x-rays, of every patient.

Dismissal: Before your pet goes home, we will review the procedure, radiographs, and any additional treatments performed. Specific home care instructions will be provided, and we can make any follow-up after-care appointment if needed. We will call you the next day to check in to see how your pet is feeling.

Preventive Care: Proper home care is important to maintain hygiene between professional dental examines. Promoting oral health through regular teeth brushing, dental chews, and a balanced diet is an essential aspect of home care. There are many excellent options. We recommend products the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has evaluated and approved to reduce plaque and tartar.

The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) are professional organizations that provide guidelines and information related to pet dentistry. These organizations, along with individual veterinarians, contribute to the development and maintenance of the standard of care in pet dentistry.

It's important for pet owners to work with a qualified veterinarian or veterinary dentist to ensure that their pets receive the best dental care possible. Additionally, the specific needs of a pet may vary based on their breed, age, and overall health, so individualized care plans should be established.

At The Hometown Veterinarian, our doctors are highly qualified and skilled in providing an exceptional level of dental care for your pets

To learn more and to set up an evaluation, call our office at 641-758-3333 or click to Request an Appointment