Are all dentals or professional teeth cleaning procedures the same? Or, how do I know what I am getting? Cost isn’t the whole story.
Choosing where to receive veterinary care can be confusing. There are so many choices and it is hard to compare what you are getting. Much like picking a mechanic for your car, you have to rely on the veterinarian (or the mechanic) to be honest. In most cases you don’t really know what’s going on with your pet, especially with procedures not done in your presence. If the mechanic says some part is bad and needs replacing, you simply have to trust he is telling the truth and doing the repair correctly. It is much the same with your veterinarian. If he says there is a problem that needs treatment or surgery, you have to trust him and that your pet is getting the best care possible
The case with dentals or teeth cleaning is a perfect example. You can see and smell the problem in the mouth, but once your loved pet goes into the hospital for treatment, you never really know what happens. It is not uncommon for owners, once it is determined the pet needs dental work, to shop for the best price. That is natural- everyone wants to be sure they get the best deal, but it’s important when shopping around to know the right questions to ask in order to make an educated decision. Remember, in most cases you get what you pay for. When you find a low price, make sure you know what you are getting for the price. Often the best price does not mean the best value.
When shopping for dental care, here are some questions you may want to ask:
- Is my pet on IV fluids during the procedure and is that included in the price? IV fluids contribute to the safety of the procedure and the comfort of the animal, just like people undergoing general anesthesia.
- Are dental radiographs taken and are they included in the price? Many dental problems are only discovered with dental radiographs, just like with human dentists. Diseases such as root abscesses, broken teeth, retained roots, and periodontal bone damage are commonly discovered on routine Xrays, but cannot be found without them. These are problems that need to be corrected at the time of the dental procedure.
- Are all teeth individually probed and charted for abnormalities? This is important to discover all of the problems that need to be addressed during the procedure.
- When teeth are extracted, how is that done? Sometimes, the tooth is simply pried out using a tool called a root elevator. If the tooth is only slightly loose or in the case of premolars and molars, which have multiple roots, this method can be very traumatic and runs the risk of leaving broken roots in the jaw, which can get infected. A better method is a surgical extraction using a high speed dental drill and then suturing the gums over the tooth socket.
- Is a nerve block used when teeth need extraction? This is an excellent way to prevent the pain of extractions after your pet has recovered from anesthesia.
- Is an antibiotic gel used on teeth with periodontal pockets? Sometimes there are periodontal pockets (places where infection has eaten away part of the jaw bone. around the tooth) that can be treated with an antibiotic gel as opposed to extraction. This allows some teeth to escape extraction.
- How is my pet monitored during anesthesia? Is a trained professional monitoring my pet from the beginning of sedation to full recovery from anesthesia? Are multiple monitoring devices such as breathing, pulse and heart monitors being used? Is supplemental heat provided? The most important component of successful anesthesia is a trained professional monitoring the procedure from initial sedation to full recovery. Someone should be with the pet the whole time- not just checking every once in a while. Vital signs should be periodically measured. Anesthesia causes rapid loss of body temperature. Supplemental heat is vital for the comfort of the pet and proper recovery from anesthesia. Chilled pets wake up slower than those whose temperature is maintained.
- Can I watch the procedure? Many hospitals will not allow the owner to be present, but there is no good reason why you shouldn’t be able to observe, if you want. That way you can know your pet is getting the care you expect and paid for.
Education is the key to getting the best value for the care of your pet. When shopping for services, be sure you ask the right questions. You want to get the best care possible for the dollars you spend in your pet’s behalf. This concept applies to any service shopped in veterinary medicine.