Annual Dental Care

A dental prophylaxis, commonly known as a “prophy,” is a fundamental procedure in veterinary dentistry, primarily aimed at addressing periodontal disease, the most prevalent infection in dogs and cats. Also referred to as a scale and polish, COHAT (Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment), or a dental clean, this procedure is crucial for maintaining optimal oral health.

Contrary to the misconception of a quick “scrape of the teeth,” a dental prophylaxis is a comprehensive process involving meticulous attention to detail. Here’s an overview:

What is a Dental Prophylaxis? A dental prophylaxis involves both supra and subgingival cleaning of the teeth, accompanied by a thorough dental examination. Periodontal disease, caused by bacteria in plaque, is mitigated by reducing plaque in the mouth. The goal is to remove all plaque and calculus from the teeth surfaces, preventing or slowing down the progression of periodontal disease.

How is a Dental Prophylaxis Performed? Performing a dental prophylaxis necessitates general anesthesia for the patient’s safety and to facilitate a thorough examination and subgingival scaling. Here’s a step-by-step outline of the procedure:

  1. Removal of Supragingival (above the gumline) Calculus and Plaque:
    • Hand instruments such as scalers and curettes are used.
    • Calculus forceps may be employed for larger deposits.
  2. Removal of Subgingival (under the gumline) Calculus and Plaque:
    • Manual scaling with a curette is the only safe method.
  3. Mechanical Cleaning:
    • Supragingival surfaces are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler.
    • Subgingival surfaces may also be cleaned with caution, as incorrect use can damage teeth.
  4. Polishing:
    • Mechanical polishing instruments remove fine remnants of plaque and calculus.
    • Polishing should be done carefully to avoid tooth damage.
  5. Oral Irrigation:
    • Gently washing the mouth, particularly the sulci, using water, saline, or antibacterial solutions.
  6. Examination and Charting:
    • A thorough examination includes the use of a periodontal probe to measure pocket depths.
    • All findings are recorded, and treatment plans are outlined.

Any additional procedures beyond these steps are considered periodontal treatment, addressing the effects of periodontal disease rather than just cleaning the teeth of plaque and calculus. Periodic dental prophylaxis, ideally every 6-18 months, is essential to significantly reduce periodontal disease. Waiting until severe symptoms arise is counterproductive; prophylaxis is most effective when performed consistently and preemptively to prevent irreversible periodontitis.