Arizona Skies Animal Hospital

Kristen Nelson, D.V.M.
Thorough medicine with care!

A Proper Dental With Sully, Dr. Nelson's Dog

Step 1

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After a physical examination, the patient receives an injection to control pain and reduce anxiety

Step 2

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 Prepare the patient's leg for an intravenous catheter by clipping the hair and numbing the skin with lidocaine gel.  

Step 3

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  Sully gets his intravenous catheter. He is relaxed and calm. He will get fluids and drugs through this catheter. 

Step 4

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 Anesthesia begins with an injection of an anesthetic to allow intubation. 

Step 5

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 Sully receives his trach tube. He will receive oxygen and a gas anesthetic to keep him anesthetized for the procedure.  

Step 6

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During anesthesia, Sully's EKG, heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs are monitored.  

At Arizona Skies Animal Hospital, all anesthetized patients are monitored closely with a Surgivet Advanced monitoring system.  

Step 7

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 X-rays are taken to look for problems below the gums. This step is critical for giving the patient a pain free mouth. Anesthesia is required for X-rays. 

Step 8

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 After examining the dental films, all of the tooth roots were healthy and no disease problems were found. Sully was lucky. 

Step 9

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  Sully has his teeth scaled and polished by Certified Veterinary Technician, Erica, while Veterinary Assistant, Olivia, monitors his anesthesia. 

Step 10

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 Dr. Nelson probes and inspects the mouth. The results are recorded on a dental chart. If he had needed an extraction or other procedure, Dr. Nelson would perform it now after numbing the area with an injection of bupivicaine.  

Sully's Teeth Before

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Notice how much calculus and plague are present even though Sully is only two year old. The infections extends below the gum line as evidenced by the inflamed gums.

Sully's Teeth After

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Sully's teeth are pearly white again. Now that the plaque and calculus have been removed from above and below the gum line, his breath is fresh again. 

Anesthesia-Free & Conscious Sedation Dental Cleanings

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Because of the risks associated with anesthesia, some pet parents are choosing to have 'anesthesia-free or conscious sedation' dental cleanings. Unfortunately, these types of cleanings often do more harm than good. In anesthesia-free procedures, tartar is chipped off the crowns followed by a quick polish. Nothing is done to diagnose or treat problems below the gum line. It is a cosmetic fix only that often creates more problems than it solves. Problems include: 1) Tooth root infections - Tartar is not removed from below the gum line. Tartar is also jammed below the gum line. 2) Aspiration pneumonia - Since the dog is usually lying on their back in the lap of the person removing the tartar, the dogs may aspirate the debris. 3) Pain and suffering - Dogs and cats suffer with painful dental problems because dental X-rays were not performed. Meanwhile, their owner thinks everything is fine because the crowns look clean. 4) Damaged enamel surface - The enamel surface of teeth is smooth to prevent bacteria from sticking and causing tartar. Cracking off tartar leaves rough areas behind. Without thorough polishing, the tartar will accumulate more quickly than before. 5) Tongue injuries - Awake animals move their tongues and are accidentally injured while precautions can be taken in an anesthetized animal to prevent injuries.


Conscious sedation is another technique used to alleviate fears over anesthesia. Unfortunately, it is also fraught with problems. Patients are not intubated which means the risk of aspirating water or debris from the cleaning is high. The patient may feel pain because they are sedated, not anesthetized. Even with local blocks, extraction of teeth and other dental procedures should never be performed as the patient will experience severe pain. If you love your pet, give them a complete oral health evaluation including dental X-rays and periodontal treatment to treat the entire mouth, both below and above the gum line.