Oral health in cats is just as important as it is in humans. Diseases of the teeth and gums can result to bad breath, mouth pain and may even lead to complications in other organs of the body. Regular brushing using cat-safe products at home can minimise plaque and tartar build up but your pet cat must have at least a once a year teeth cleaning at the veterinarian’s office.
Dental Cleaning: What Are You Actually Paying For?
Teeth cleaning cost varies from one veterinary practice to another and also depends of the kind and amount of work to be done. Do not sacrifice quality of work to cost, but also remember that a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean better service. Therefore, it is still a wise choice to go to a veterinary practice that you trust. A physical examination of your pet cat by your veterinarian must be done before teeth cleaning is scheduled. This is when you can discuss with your veterinarian about the cost of the procedure. At this stage the veterinarian can only give you the minimum estimate or a more comprehensive estimate that anticipates the other associated procedures that might need to be done during the teeth cleaning. The veterinarian, however, cannot give you an exact final cost until he has examined the cat’s mouth under anaesthesia. This estimate can allow you to prepare for the cost of teeth cleaning and not be surprised with the bill later on. The following is a guide on what are the procedures involved in teeth cleaning for cats, what they are for and why they are important. This can help to give you an idea what items to take up when talking to your veterinarian about cost estimates.
1. Pre-anaesthetic bloodwork
Blood is drawn from your cat to check for underlying health issues, likes problems in the liver or kidneys, that may compromise the cat under anaesthesia. The extent of this bloodwork depends on your cat’s age and health. Some practices make this procedure optional unless the pet is seven years old and above, but for your pet’s safety, I recommend that you should never skip having this bloodwork done.
2. Placement of an Intravenous (IV) Fluid Line
An IV catheter is placed into one of your cat’s veins. This allows an open line and immediate access to the circulatory system in case an emergency occurs while the cat is under anaesthesia. Fluids can also help maintain the cat’s blood pressure as some anaesthetics may cause this to drop.
This is necessary during teeth cleaning and there must be an individualised anaesthetic protocol for each patient. Some practices may claim that they can perform anaesthesia-free teeth cleaning which can dramatically reduce the cost. I would not recommend this as having a cat’s mouth probed while she is awake will put undue stress on her and the veterinarian will not have full access to the mouth to be able to conduct a through dental and mouth examination.
4. Anaesthesia Monitoring
It is essential that heart rate, respiration and blood pressure must be monitored all throughout the time the cat is under anaesthesia. Sometimes more sophisticated equipment might be needed for the older and more critical patients. Ask your veterinarian if these are available.
5. Teeth Cleaning
The qualifications of the person performing the procedure and the level of sophistication of the equipment used for dental probing, scaling and polishing equipment can both affect the quality and cost of teeth cleaning.
6. Full Dental Examination
It is only when the cat is under anaesthesia that the veterinarian can have the chance to examine thoroughly your cat’s mouth to check for things like masses and growths, broken teeth, misaligned or extra teeth, abscessed teeth, gum recession, gingivitis, and more.
7. Dental X-rays
The veterinarian may request this procedure done to check the status of the teeth under the visible gumline. Some teeth may appear perfect above the gums but have their roots already rotten away.
8. Dental Extractions
Some teeth, like those with abscesses and cavities, have to be taken out as they cause pain for your cat. They may also become a portal of entry for bacteria from the mouth the get into your cat’s bloodstream and bring infection to distant organs like the heart, lungs and kidneys. Talk with your veterinarian about this because different types of teeth (e.g. incisors, canines, pre-molars, molars) can have different cost for extraction. Usually dental extractions have to be done during routine teeth cleaning so as not to subject your cat to another round of anaesthesia for a separate tooth extraction procedure which will also mean even more additional cost to you.
9. Post-cleaning Needs
Medicines for pain relief and antibiotics are needed to prevent discomfort and secondary infections after teeth cleaning especially if tooth extraction was performed. Always talk to your veterinarian after teeth cleaning to discuss what other findings were made during the procedure and in the dental x-rays and what additional procedures may need to be performed to address these findings.
It’s Worth the Cost
Yes, at first glance, teeth cleaning may come across as a bit costly and most pet owners tend to just bring their pets to the veterinarian when there is an obvious problem already. But in the long run, regular teeth cleaning will save costs as it can prevent dental disease and minimise the need for tooth extractions. Cost of treatment for the complications in other organs brought about by unhealthy teeth, as mentioned above, are so much more than the cost of preventive teeth cleaning.