3 Questions to Ask Before Your Cat Has a Dental Procedure

Posted on July 1, 2015 under Cat Topics

A cat smiles, showing her healthy teeth.

By Dr. Tracy McFarland, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best Pet Health Insurance, a cat health insurance agency.

Here are three questions you should ask your veterinarian before your cat undergoes a dental procedure.

1. Why does my cat need a dental procedure?
Your veterinarian should be able to show you your cat’s teeth, including tartar, gingivitis or visible feline resorptive lesions. Not every problem will be obvious with your cat awake, but unless your cat has a serious “cattititude”, you should be able to see why a dental procedure is needed. By the way, a majority of cats already have at least the beginnings of dental disease by three years of age. You may already have a suspicion, based on your cat’s bad breath, red gums or difficulty chewing. Left unattended, dental disease can lead to more serious problems, including heart, kidney or liver disease, due to bacteria from your cat’s mouth entering and traveling in his or her bloodstream to these vital organs. Looking for dental disease is an important reason why an annual preventative wellness exam is so important. Indoor cats get dental disease too!

2. Is my cat healthy enough for a dental procedure?
While most cats can safely undergo the general anesthesia required for a thorough oral exam, intra-oral dental radiographs (x-rays), subgingival scaling, cleaning, polishing and any necessary extractions that go into a complete dental procedure, your veterinarian needs to perform a complete physical exam, and ideally, pre-anesthetic laboratory tests, to ensure that he or she has all the information necessary to select an appropriate anesthetic protocol. Pain management also has to be considered.

3. Does my veterinarian have the equipment and expertise to provide a true standard of care dental procedure for my cat?
Your veterinarian’s team will need the ability to place an intravenous catheter to deliver fluids and anesthetic drugs, and an endotracheal tube, to guard your cat’s airways and deliver gas anesthesia. All dental instruments should be autoclaved between uses, to make them germ-free, and each cat ideally should have intra-oral x-rays to look for the hidden dental problems unique to cats, such as resorbing roots, and feline resorption lesions that destroy enamel and expose sensitive dentin. Your veterinarian should be able to do local nerve blocks to reduce the amount of gas anesthesia needed and enhance patient comfort post-dental. He or she should also have power dental drills ready to facilitate extractions and perform crown amputations (removal of the crown only), when a tooth’s roots have resorbed into bone and a diseased tooth’s crown needs to be removed. This allows needless trauma to be avoided. Any extraction or crown removal sites should be closed with sutures(stitches) to speed healing. Lastly, your cat should receive safe, effective pain medication if any extractions or crown removals were performed. Only a veterinarian should perform difficult extractions; a registered veterinary technician can perform simple, non- surgical extractions (such as loose teeth), under the supervision of a veterinarian.

As you can see a cat’s dental procedure requires a team of professionals and advanced equipment to do the job right. Please ask your veterinarian these important questions.


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