Dental Health is extremely important to maintain the health and longevity of our furry friends. It is estimated that by the age of three, some 80 percent of all dogs and 70 percent of all cats show signs of dental disease.

Small breed dogs are especially prone to dental disease and we have seen significant issues even in dogs less than a year of age. Peridontal disease can lead to the more serious problems of heart, lung, and kidney disease. The good news is periodontal disease can be prevented and treated!

A dental exam is an important part of the physical exam and even in early visits such as with puppy and kitten vaccines we are always assessing the teeth. Early diagnosis of congenital issues such as missing teeth or an abnormal bite may predispose a pet to dental problems later in life.

We will always attempt to look at your pet’s teeth in the exam room but a complete dental assessment and/or cleaning and extractions must be performed under a general anesthetic. During the dental exam we also like to take the opportunity to discuss preventative care. Just like in people , plaque and tartar can build up quickly in the mouth. In fact plaque can start to build up on the teeth within a few hours of eating and starts to harden into tartar in 24 hours. This is why dentists recommend brushing teeth at least twice a day! In the veterinary community we also recommend brushing but realize it may be a challenge for some patients.

We are happy to show you how to brush your pet’s teeth and give you some tips on how to make brushing a positive experience for all involved. Brushing is considered the gold standard in preventative dental care and should be performed every day if possible. There are several brands of veterinary toothpastes available on the market and it is important to note that toothpaste made for humans should NOT be used! They can be dangerous if swallowed.

For those pets that do not tolerate brushing there are several other options available:

Tartar diets such as Hill’s TD have been on the market for years and are clinically proven to reduce plaque build up. Due to their large kibble size they are designed to mechanically scrape the teeth as the dog or cat chews the food.

Enzadent Oral Care chews combine enzymes found naturally in your pet’s saliva with the natural abrading action of beef hide to also help mechanically remove food debris before it becomes a problem.

Healthy Mouth is a water additive that w hen added daily to pets’ drinking water, safely cleans teeth and gums, reducing plaque and the oral bacteria that causes inflammation leading to dental disease. Clinical trials and field use has also revealed that plaque, and bacterial reduction continues to improve the longer the product is used and that any remaining plaque is significantly softened, making the use of tooth brushing, dental diets and dental chew-bones even more effective for small animals.

Another product that just became available is called STRIXNB. This product is available as a water additive or a spray. STRIXNB is proudly made in Canada and designed to help fight plaque and tartar and freshen breath. Our technician has been using it on her dog and after only 2 weeks has noticed a huge difference in her dog’s mouth. No more stinky breath!

Ok , so you have brushed the teeth and used dental hygiene products and your dog still has tartar on his teeth? Or you have a small breed dog who is prone to dental disease? Or your German Shepherd mix chews rocks and has a broken tooth? Oh wait that’s my dog! As humans we get our teeth cleaned every 6 months (and we brush twice a day) so don’t be alarmed if your dog or cat requires a dental cleaning. We are happy to book an exam and help you decide the proper time for a cleaning as well as give you an estimate on what may be involved and expected cost! Dental estimates are extremely hard for us but we try to be as accurate as possible. No two mouths are ever the same!

What does a dental cleaning involve?

In dogs and cats most of the dental problems occur below the gum line. This is why we are finding anesthetic free cleanings are becoming a cause for concern in the veterinary community. Scraping the tarter off the teeth does not address any of the issues that may be hiding below, such as gum recession, bone loss, abscessed roots as well as broken teeth. In fact manually scraping teeth without polishing afterward has been proven detrimental because it leaves a rough surface on the tooth. This rough surface is a perfect place for plaque to form!

Because we are unable to assess and clean teeth on an awake dog we must place them under a general anesthetic. At Tanglefoot we pride ourselves on providing the best and safest possible care for your pet. We realize that dental procedures can become costly when there are multiple issues in the mouth and/or you are on a limited budget and we will try to accommodate you and work with financial limitations.

So what happens to your pet when they come in for a dental?


D-day! (Dental that is!)

8:30am : Your pet comes in the door! We place them on the scale to get an accurate weight. All our drug dosages and fluid rates are based on weight. We have you sign a consent form and address and questions you may have. We take Fido (or Fluffy) to the ‘back’. The ‘back’ is a scary place where horrible things happen. Just kidding! In the back (treatment area) we get them set up in a warm kennel with a soft blanket and reassure Fido that you love him and will be back soon.

8:45am : Fido is a senior dog so we will run preanesthetic blood work. A little poke with a needle and Fido is back to his blanket. Preanesthetic blood work will allow us to determine how well Fido’s liver and kidney’s are functioning (as well as other important information) and will let us determine an individual anesthetic protocol for him.

9:00am : Another quick poke! Sedation time. Off to sleep Fido!

9:15am : All general anesthetic patients have an IV catheter placed in a vein on a front leg and are put on a saline drip. This allows us to protect those very important kidney’s. Also, if there are any complications with the anesthetic and we need to administer additional drugs we can do so immediately! One last poke Fido. Fido does not care. He likes his premed. Once the catheter is placed and fluids are running we give a short acting injectable anesthetic through the catheter. This allows us to intubate Fido and place on gas anesthetic.

9:30am : Start time! Fido will always have two people (a veterinarian and a technician) with him from now and until the procedure is finished! He is hooked up to a machine that will monitor his heart rate, respiration rate, oxygen level, temperature and blood pressure throughout the entire procedure. The technician will probe every single tooth in the mouth and document the level of periodontal disease. She will take dental radiographs as required (remember the problems are below the gum line) and the veterinarian will determine a plan for Fido’s teeth.

9:55am : Fido has significant bone loss and mobility on two incisors and has fractured the crown on his upper carnassial tooth. (Carnassial – the big chewing tooth on the top). These teeth will need to be removed. Radiagraphs show that one of the incisors has a broken root and the fractured crown on the carnassials is broken into the pulp cavity. Ouch! No wonder Fido didn’t want to chew on that side of his mouth.

Fido is given a dose of pain medication. We want to make sure he has pain meds on board before the pain even starts. He has significant tartar accumulation on all of his teeth but otherwise the teeth look healthy. Fido is pretty lucky. His owner brought him in before more teeth were affected. Our dental technician will use an ultrasonic scaler as well as hand instruments to thoroughly remove all tartar from the teeth. She will thoroughly clean above and below the gum line. Normally the cleaning will take approximately 60 minutes.

10:45am : Extraction time! Each tooth is extracted individually by the veterinarian. Let’s start with the easier teeth (easier teeth does not mean easy!) Incisor’s are single rooted teeth. The roots of cat and dog teeth are often as long or longer than the crown of the tooth. When extracting we use a special elevator to loosen all the fibrous attachment around the tooth. Elevate, elevate, elevate! One tooth out. That was fast!

10:55am : Incisor number two! This one has a broken root. Elevate, elevate, elevate. Out comes the crown of the tooth. Now to get the root! This is tricky and takes much longer. Looks like that might be it. Root tips and small pieces of bone look very similar. Our technician will take another radiograph and assess. Radiagraph looks great! Root tip is gone! That took a while.

11:25am : One more tooth to extract! This tooth has 3 roots. The veterinarian will use a special drill to cut the tooth into 3 pieces. This will isolate each individual root so that it can be extracted separately. Sometimes it is necessary to remove some of the bone surrounding the tooth as well.

Root 1: elevate, elevate, drill, drill, elevate ,elevate, stop and flex hand to stop the cramping. Out it comes in one piece! Yay!

Root 2: same as root 1!

Root 3: This is the tricky one. Elevate, elevate, drill, drill, Elevate. Why is it not loose yet? Let’s look at our radiograph again. Look at that big hook on the end of that root! No wonder it doesn’t want to come out. Elevate, elevate, drill, drill. Finally!

12:30pm : Oh darn! Lunch time. That will have to wait. Time to suture up where those teeth were extracted. Suturing finished. Our veterinarian gets to rest her hands. The technician will do a final check and make sure nothing has been missed. All remaining teeth will be polished with a fine grit prophy paste. Fido’s mouth is rinsed out and his face washed. He wants to look good for his owner and show off those pearly whites!



1:05pm : Time to wake up Fido. Our technician will sit with Fido until he can be safely extubated and then he will go back onto his fluffy blanket with a nice warm heating pad. He will be closely monitored by all staff until he is ready to go home.

3:30pm : Our technician will get Fido’s home care package ready. This will include Fido’s antibiotics and pain medication, as well as any information on preventative maintenance to keep those teeth clean.

4:30pm : Your owner is here Fido! Thanks for coming in and letting us help you with your dental needs. We will see you for a free recheck in two weeks to make sure your mouth is healing well! Good boy Fido! You did great!

As you can see a dental procedure is very complicated and much more than just a quick cleaning that we may have experienced at our own dentists office!

Fido is fictional but his problems are very real. Dogs have 42 teeth and cats have 30. We have seen mouths so horribly affected by periodontal disease that we have needed to extract all (or almost all) of the teeth in the mouth.

Often we will need to address the dental extractions in stages because of the anesthetic risk to the patient. Two or three shorter anesthetic procedures are much safer than one extremely long anesthetic. The patient’s safety is our highest priority.

We offer cleanings every month of the year, but during the month of February we have extra incentives to promote awareness on the importance of DENTAL HEALTH! We are offering FREE dental exams with our qualified technicians as well as 15% off on our dental services! Please contact us and we are excited to answer any questions you might have regarding your pets teeth!

Thank you for stopping by our blog!