Plaque and calculus accumulation is a normal and constant process. While dental calculus is not directly associated with periodontal disease, dental plaque is the main reason for the start and progression of periodontal disease. Let’s have a look into some myths and facts about dental deposits!
1. Tartar can be removed in animals without anaesthesia
Appropriate management of periodontal disease includes removal of soft (dental plaque) and hard (dental calculus; “tartar”) dental deposits above and especially below the gingiva (gum) by scaling; but scaling may not be the only treatment needed.
During scaling, sharp instruments are used, which may cause discomfort and some pain, so this procedure can be dangerous to the animal and staff if performed on an awake animal. Any unwanted move of the animal would likely result in (periodontal) tissue damage or trauma to the staff, including animal bites. Therefore, the only safe, efficient and professional approach is to perform dental scaling with the animal under general anaesthesia.
Also, to fully evaluate the extent and severity of oral and dental diseases, detailed oral and dental examination and dental radiographs have to be performed – these procedures can only be safely and accurately performed on an anaesthetized animal. If we fail to properly and fully diagnose oral and dental disease, we cannot appropriately treat your animal. It is very common, especially in older animals, to diagnose oral and dental diseases that require additional procedures to scaling of the teeth.
2. Dental scaling in animals is unreasonably expensive
Let’s have a closer look into the procedure …
For a safe and effective treatment, basic dental procedure (where dental scaling is just part of the procedure) includes pre-anaesthetic general physical exam, (at least some) blood tests, detailed oral and dental examination, full-mouth dental radiographs and dental scaling above and below the gum. Several staff members take care of the animal during this procedure – in our setting three veterinarians (dentist, anaesthesiologist, assistant) with a help of a technician and supported by several staff members ensuring the department workflow is safe and smooth.
Depending on the extent of the disease (amount of the dental deposits), basic dental procedure usually takes an hour to complete (including detailed oral and dental examination, full-mouth dental radiographs and dental scaling), an additional (at least) half an hour to prepare the animal to the procedure and an additional (at least) hour to closely monitor the animal during the immediate recovery from the procedure.
As it is only possible to fully diagnose oral and dental diseases in animals once they are under general anaesthesia and as we usually find diseases that require additional procedures to dental scaling, we would routinely inform the clients in advance about higher cost-estimates.
3. If properly removed, tartar does not recur
Plaque and calculus accumulation is a normal and constant process. While dental calculus is not directly associated with periodontal disease, dental plaque is the main reason for the start and progression of periodontal disease. Plaque and calculus accumulation starts within hours after scaling of the teeth and within a few weeks dental deposits are fully formed if the process is not regularly interrupted by daily tooth brushing (or, less, by other means of regular oral home care).