One of the wellness services we provide at Elk Lake Veterinary Hospital is complimentary dental consultations. Our veterinarians are passionate about dental health, and we love booking these appointments – we believe that they are such an important part of your pet’s overall health maintenance, we offer them free of charge!
Are you curious about what happens during a dental consult, for both you and your companion?
We asked Dr. Petra Warnock (veterinarian and dental health advocate) to share with us exactly what this dental consultation involves, and why she particularly looks forward to these appointments.
Q: Rumour has it that you love the chance to talk about teeth – what makes you so passionate about good oral health for our pets?
A: I strongly believe that all pets deserve a pain-free, infection-free mouth. In most cases that’s something that we can provide for them, with a combination of regular dental cleaning (just like we humans need to keep our teeth clean and healthy) and at-home dental hygiene like brushing, dental diets, and tartar-fighting treats and chews.
Dental disease can lead to or exacerbate many other health issues, and waking up each morning with painful gums or teeth is really crummy. I know how annoyed and uncomfortable I feel when I get something as small as a poppyseed stuck between my teeth. Imagine how grumpy I would be if I lived with an infected tooth all the time! That’s something we see frequently in our cat and dog patients, but luckily we can address and resolve this pain. I love getting calls from clients a few weeks after a dental procedure, when they report that their furry family member seems so much happier and more engaged – the result of alleviating their discomfort (that people often didn’t even realize their pet was experiencing!).
Q: So what about preliminary dental consultations?
What happens at these appointments?
A: First of all, it’s a chance for the doctor (myself, or one of our other dental-savvy veterinarians) to meet directly with clients and patients. It can be nerve-wracking to entrust your beloved family member to someone for an anesthetized procedure, and this is a chance for us to get to know each other, answer any questions that clients might have, and make sure you and your pet feel comfortable.
We also have the chance to work through your pet’s dental assessment together – looking at the teeth and getting an idea of their overall oral health. Clients can learn what danger points to look for, and get a better understanding of what we see with our ‘veterinarian eyes’. I use this assessment to develop a whole dental care plan for the pet – one that can involve immediate treatment like a dental cleaning or even extractions to remove compromised teeth, and also an ongoing homecare plan to help with maintenance and preventative care.
Once we’ve done this initial assessment, our team will put together a treatment plan (along with an idea of the associated costs). This allows clients the chance to consider their budget, coordinate their insurance coverage if they have it, and establish a treatment timeline. We also have the time to discuss any concerns they might have about a procedure.
Q: What kind of issues do you usually find during these dental consultations?
A: It can be tricky for guardians to spot dental issues in their pets until the problem becomes severe – after all, we don’t usually spend a lot of time poking around inside our own dog or cat’s mouths. Bad breath is usually the flag for clients that something might be amiss, but often dental disease has been progressing for quite some time.
Even without anesthesia (which is necessary for a full dental examination, because over 50% of dental disease actually occurs below the gumline!), I often spot quite a few issues. In addition to excessive buildup of tartar I often see conditions like painful and swollen gums, slab fractures, dead or mobile teeth, and oral masses or abscesses. Yikes! But the good news is that once we’ve spotted these concerns, we can make a plan to address them and help their pet feel much, much better.
Q: Sometimes I dread going to the dentist if I’m going to get scolded about flossing! Do clients get ‘in trouble’ when their pets’ teeth are less than perfect?
A: Absolutely not! We know how challenging it can be to fit in a strong oral healthcare routine on top of everything else – and in many cases, your pet’s temperament may not be ideal for daily tooth brushing, or their anatomy might mean that their teeth need extra maintenance. This is the case particularly for small dogs or brachycephalic breeds, where their jaws are often not large enough to comfortably accommodate all of their teeth, leading to crowding and faster tartar buildup. We’re simply here to help you take the best possible care of your companion, whatever stage of life and health they are currently at. Dental consultations help identify issues and give us the chance to explore options for both treatment and future prevention.
Q: What comes next after the complimentary dental consultation, if there is dental disease that needs to be addressed?
A: I’m glad you asked (because this is truly my favourite part!). In veterinary medicine terms, a visit to the doggy or kitty dentist involves a procedure called a COHAT (complete oral health assessment and treatment). Under general anesthetic, we take a full set of dental x-rays and examine each tooth to get a comprehensive view of any issues that need to be addressed, and can then proceed to clean the teeth above and below the gumline and perform any extractions needed to ensure their ongoing health and comfort. We know veterinary dentals can seem a bit mysterious, so we’ve outlined the whole procedure step-by-step – check it out.
If you have any questions, your complimentary dental consultation is the perfect time to address them. Call our Reception Team at 250-658-5922 and book your appointment!