Demystifying the COHAT – The Dental Procedure
October is a Dental Health Awareness Month at Elkwood Animal Hospital!
As part of our ongoing effort to help your pets live long and happy, healthy lives we offer occasional monthly specials to address specific health concerns. Oral disease is a particularly prevalent but under treated condition.
In October we offer 10% off all dental procedures! We also provide free dental goody bags for your pet after his/her procedure, so you can continue with good oral health care at home. Feel free to call us for more information!
This year we are also releasing some articles addressing dental health on a more in-depth level. Please enjoy our article below!
COHAT: Complete Oral Health Assessment & Treatment – What Happens During My Pet’s Procedure?
When you, the pet parent, and our doctors decide a professional dental cleaning or other dental health treatments are beneficial for your pet, there are often questions about what actually happens during the procedure. We prepared this article to help answer some of those questions and help explain the benefits to your pet.
First things first – why do we call it a “COHAT” and not a “dental”?
Many people used to refer to a veterinary oral exam and professional dental cleaning as simply “a dental”. However, we have shifted to calling the process a Complete Oral Health Assessment & Treatment, because that is a much better description of what actually occurs! The procedure is NOT just about cleaning teeth, but about a complete oral health and cancer screening, as well as treating and preventing oral disease for your pet.
During the COHAT, the veterinarian will first do a thorough examination of your pet’s mouth, including inspecting the teeth and recording any that are missing, broken, or diseased, measuring gingival (gum) pockets (an indicator of periodontal disease), evaluating the gums, cheeks, and tongue for any signs of cancer or other disease, and looking deep into the back of the throat. Since your pet is under anesthesia, this exam is far more complete and detailed than anything that can be accomplished in the normal exam room. Subtle changes, masses hidden under the tongue, and other crucial findings can be made on this exam which could be missed on a regular, awake exam.
Treatments & Cleaning
After the examination, the veterinarian can proceed to treatment of any disease found in your pet’s mouth. This may mean scaling and cleaning away tartar deposits (very common) on healthy teeth, and following with a polishing to smooth the enamel and make it more difficult for bacteria to adhere in the future. The equipment we use to clean your pet’s teeth is similar to, or sometimes exactly the same, as what is used for people in a dental office. The ultrasonic tool for removing tartar that we use has different tips and settings for cleaning above or below the gum line; this is one of the most critical parts of the COHAT, as so much of our pets’ dental disease is actually below the gum line. Without cleaning this crucial area, your pet’s plaque and tartar will come right back above the gum line, and the disease will continue deeper below the gum line to cause jaw bone disease.
Sometimes teeth are so diseased that th
ey may be loose and wiggly, or the bone around them may be infected or decaying. These teeth are sources of disease and pain, and thus, we often need to extract them to provide relief. Other teeth may have less severe disease and be repairable with a root canal and restoration, for which we can refer you to veterinary dental specialists.
What About The Anesthesia?
We wish our pets would all “open wide” for our dental procedures, but even people have trouble with this request! Anesthesia is the only way we can safely do the deep cleaning required for your pet’s oral health. For routine cleanings, your pet’s total anesthesia time is often less than 20-30 minutes, although if there are more advanced procedures or necessary extractions, it may take a longer. (Another reason to be proactive about dental care!) The dentistry patient receives intubation to ensure a clear airway for breathing, inhalant anesthesia, and supplementary oxygen; warming, and close monitoring including ECG, blood pressure, oxygenation, temperature, and an assistant to watch over them before, during, and after the procedure are also provided. While no anesthesia is without risk, every patient gets our best care during their dental procedure. Preanesthetic bloodwork, IV catheters, and fluids are always recommended and sometimes required depending on the health and age of your pet. Our goal is always the best and safest treatment.
Please always feel free to discuss options for dental care for your pets with our doctors! We want you to be comfortable that your pet is getting the best preventive or corrective oral care possible for their health and wellbeing!