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A Human Dentist Wants to Talk to You About Pet Teeth Cleaning

Dr. Ken Karger, discusses teeth cleaning in dogs and cats with the unique view of practicing dentistry in the metroplex the past 28 years (on people!). Educating people on pet dental care is important since periodontal disease is the number one problem in veterinary medicine. He works with Dr. Bloom to contribute to our veterinary dental practice with the incorporation of advanced human dental techniques. He graduated from Baylor Dental College in 1983 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.

Why should I take my dog or cat in for a dental checkup? His teeth look fine to me.

We all know the answer to this one. Gum disease, bone loss, tumors, cysts, and abscessed teeth are almost always Teeth with severe tartarfound under the gum line. The areas you can’t see. You can’t diagnose these problems if dental xrays are not available You only see the tip of the iceberg in most cases. A veterinary dentist is trained to see those things that which most people miss.

  • Did you know that over 75% of all dogs and cats over the age of three have some form of gum disease? Think of it this way: if you have a son of daughter who was 21 years old and had never been to the dentist, do you really think he or she would have perfect, cavity free teeth? Of course not, yet that is the age of a 3 year old pet in people years.
  • Does your dog or cat have breath that is anything but minty fresh?
  • Do you see brown or dark stains on the teeth (especially near the gum line or sides of the teeth)?
  • Does your pet favor one side or the other to chew on or does it hesitate when eating dry dog or cat food?
  • Does your pet drool a lot?
  • Do you ever seeing bleeding at the gum line?
  • Did you know that dogs and cats get oral cancers, tumors and cysts at a rate much, much higher than humans?

While I have no "official’ number for the last bullet above, I can count on two hands the number of cancer and tumor cases I saw as a human dentist in 28 years. Not a lot, is it? Yet as a dentist working with veterinarians, I see them weekly in cats and dogs. And most of these are not referral cases but rather cancers and tumors found on routine exam and cleanings. If we had this many in the human field we would call it an epidemic. Oral examinations are important.

Teeth Cleaning
This is a cat that has so much tartar build up on the teeth, you can’t even recognize the back teeth as teeth. It is just a calculus blob.

Teeth Cleaning
Red, swollen gums, bad breath and tartar covered teeth is how dog presents on his cleaning visit. Very unhealthy.

Teeth Cleaning
This is what clean healthy teeth and gums looks like. No bad breath, no red bleeding gums, just healthy teeth.

How often should I have my pet's teeth cleaned?

We don’t have a set schedule like we do for our human patients. But some breeds are more prone than others for gum disease and tooth loss. Small breeds like Dachshunds, Yorkies, Terriers, brachiocephalic breeds (flat nosed breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, etc), and most toy breeds have a very high incidence of dental problems. These breeds will probably need their teeth cleaned every year. Other breeds that have a lower incidence of gum and teeth problems might be every three years.

If the teeth are shiny white, no stains and the breath is good, then they will be a low maintenance kind of animal more than likely. Let your veterinarian do a thorough exam, x-rays and a cleaning under anesthesia and establish a baseline for how often they will need to clean.

X-rays are often one of the most important tools for a thorough exam. This is because more than 80% of all dental problems are either inside a tooth, or under the gumline where you cannot visualize the problem without radiographs. You are truly operating blind. Request that your veterinarian take dental radiographs to ensure that dental disease is not missed.

Do we really have to sedate my pet to clean the teeth?

Yes. Plain and simple. On a very rare occasion, I have seen a dog (never a cat) allow a cleaning. But most of these cleanings are rudimentary and cursory. They never include putting digital x ray sensors in the molar region or the use of ultrasonics to help clean or do they ever allow full mouth probing for tissue pockets. So if your goal is a half done job then the answer is no, but if it is a cleaning and exam done to human standards then absolutely. This is the truth so don’t shoot the messenger, me.

What constitutes a good dental cleaning?

A skilled veterinary technician uses an ultrasonic scaler and hand instruments to remove all the tartar and calculus from above and below the gum line. Once the teeth are clean, a fluoride paste is used to polish the teeth smooth, making them more resistant to future tartar development.

A periodontal probe and explorer are used as part of a post cleaning examination. If a probe depth (pocket around the tooth) is greater than 2mm in dogs or 1mm in cats, this indicates that periodontal disease is present and additional treatment may be necessary to save the tooth. Dr. Bloom performing a teeth cleaning on an anesthetized patient A comprehensive oral examination and charting is performed at the time of the teeth cleaning. Dental x-rays show the inside of the tooth and root. Our hospital uses the same digital dental radiograph machine found in your dentists' office. Charting a patient's mouth is the recording of abnormalities in a pet's medical record for future reference or to design a treatment plan.

Cats have 30 permanent teeth and dogs have 42 to keep track of. Probing in our cat patients will identify feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL’s). These dental resorptions are commonly referred to as cavities or cervical neck lesions. These are common in cats over 5 years of age (although they can and do occur at any age), occur at or below the gum line, and can be quite painful. Although not as common, cavities also occur in dogs. Resorptive lesions are very common in cats. We also see them occasionally in humans.

What is included in a pet Dental Cleaning?

Thorough dental care is often overlooked in dogs and cats and can lead to serious health problems. Our dental team exclusively practices pet dental care. They are highly trained to recognize dental and oral problems. The dental team provides personal, convenient and thorough dental care.

  • Physical exam: A complete physical exam is performed to check the pet for health issues that may inhibit an anesthetic procedure.
  • I.V. Catheter and Fluids: An I.V. catheter is placed to administer fluids and injections. Fluids administered through I.V. help protect the organs and supports a quicker recovery from anesthesia. I.V. fluids are administered throughout the patient’s procedure and removed during recovery.
  • Mild Sedation and Pain Medication: A mild sedative is given to relax the patient. Research shows that administering pain medication prior to the procedure helps control pain and keeps the patient more comfortable for quicker recovery and healing.
  • Anesthesia: The patient is induced with a gas anesthesia, Isoflurane, and the patient is intubated. A steady flow of anesthesia is maintained throughout the procedure.
  • Specialized Monitoring and Warming: A technician constantly monitors the patient’s vital signs (blood oxygenation, respiration rate, temperature, heart rate and EKG with Pulse Oximetry while under anesthesia. Pulse Oximetry is a non-invasive method of monitoring the anesthetized patient and alerts if slight changes in normal vital signs occur. The patient’s temperature is maintained with a specialized warming unit that circulates warm air.
  • Oral Exam and Charting: An oral exam and dental charting is performed on the gums and each tooth to note and record overall dental health. Any dental and oral problems are noted.
  • Ultrasonic Cleaning and Polishing: An ultrasonic instrument is used to gently scale the hard plaque from the teeth. After the plaque is removed, the teeth are polished with special paste and fluoride is applied.
  • Sealant: A sealant, Oravet, is applied to prevent tarter build up between cleanings.
  • Antibiotics: An injectable antibiotic is administered to prevent potential incidents of infection.
  • Patient Recovery: Patients are monitored by a technician after the procedure to ensure a smooth and gentle recovery.
  • Home Care: Instructions for home care are given during discharge by a technician. The dental team customizes a dental plan for each patient for optimum dental care.

Will my pet have much pain?

No. They are usually in a lot more pain when they arrive due to dental disease than when they leave. Since most of our patients have gum disease, cracked or broken teeth or chronic ulcerations when they arrive, they feel so much better when they leave. We also do a long term injection of pain medication if they have undergone a major dental procedure. Our clients tell us routinely that their dog or cat was much more energetic the next day than before the cleaning.

Are x-rays and blood work necessary for teeth cleanings?

Blood work and X-rays are not included in the price of teeth cleanings.

Blood work is always recommended before any anesthetic procedure. Blood work is the only way to determine how well the organs are performing and assesses the white and red blood cell count. Blood work is so important that some procedures are actually postponed due to underlying blood chemistry deficiencies and diseases in patients that otherwise look healthy and are presented with no obvious symptoms.

X-Rays are commonly performed with teeth cleanings. They are a standard of care. X-rays can reveal possible cavities between the teeth, detect bone loss and abscesses, and verify boney cysts or tumors. All radiographs are digital and are surprisingly affordable for a full series.

What about home care and maintenance?

We will teach you about brushing and home care for anyone interested. Many of our clients brush their dogs teeth and we have special brushes and toothpaste available for those willing to tackle the job. Brushing can often be a challenge in the beginning but those people who stick with it, find it gets easier and easier as the dog becomes more cooperative. Many dogs will sit there and actually enjoy the experience. The success of this endeavor lies more with your persistence than with the dog’s behavior.

First, this is a slow gradual process to success. Use either a finger brush (think of it like a finger puppet but is a tooth brush that fits over your finger). Then, put some doggie toothpaste on the brush. While most vets push beef or chicken flavored toothpaste, I have found that dogs really like vanilla also and it smells much better for us humans.

Start the brushing process by pulling back the lips and rubbing either the finger brush or the toothbrush against the outer sides of the teeth. At first, you may only get cooperation for a matter of seconds or milliseconds. Be Patient. Also, a pocket full of treats never hurts either. A few seconds of brushing followed by a minute of love and treats makes a much better patient that trying to hold them down with force.

Mainly concentrate on the outer surfaces, upper and lower. We don’t get as much buildup on the inner surfaces so that is good news. As you master the outsides, then you can move to the inside surfaces.

Keep with it. It does make a huge difference and can make the difference between a healthy pet and one that has major dental problems. Good luck!!!!!

Why choose I-20 Animal Medical Center?

I-20 is the only veterinary hospital in North Texas with a veterinarian that has been through three years of additional training (a residency program) and has a human dentist on staff to help with your pet. No one else has that sort of expertise in dental matters.

We have a surgery suite and two operatories dedicated for dental procedures. If your human dentist has it, so do we. Our set up is second to none. From routine cleanings, fillings and crowns to jaw fractures and tumor removals, if it is dental, we do it with the expertise you expect.

Dr. Bonnie Bloom

Dr. Bonnie Bloom, a Fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry, has completed a residency in veterinary dentistry and offers the newest and most innovative techniques for treatment of periodontal disease, tooth and jaw fractures, orthodontics and general dental care.


Dr. Ken Karger

Dr. Ken Karger, (human dentist) works with Dr. Bloom to contribute to our veterinary dental practice with the incorporation of advanced human dental techniques. He graduated from Baylor Dental College in 1983 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. He has practiced dentistry in the metroplex for the past 28 years, winning 6 International Awards from the Academy of cosmetic Dentistry for Advanced cosmetic makeovers. He also enjoyed serving as the official dentist for ms. Texas for over a decade. Dr. Karger has lectured across the country in cosmetic dentistry and practice management, recently giving two lectures with Dr. Bloom to the Veterinary Dental Forum in Boston on dental materials advanced crown preparations.


Laura Roberts says...

I brought in a stray that had been hit by a car. The care was immediate and excellent. I was very impressed with the facility and quality of service. Thanks so much for the crate to transport him. It was very helpful!

Richard Jezek says...

High five kudos to Dr. Killman! She, with the help of the entire treating staff saved our TomTom’s life! Dr. Killman, Dr. Welch and Dr. Smith have renewed my faith in the caring veterinarian that we were looking for.

Brenda Rowland says...

Would like to thank the staff and doctors for the great care they gave our Tabby. The care given to Tabby was so kind and courteous. I am so grateful I chose I-20 Animal Medical Center.

Laura and Ricardo Grant & Nunook say...

Dr. Doherty and all of the vet techs that helped Nunook were so great. Words cannot convey how much we appreciate the great work everyone did for Nunook. He is our baby and he makes our family whole. Thank you for all that you do.

Marcia Marrow says...

Dr. Welch is amazing. She has a very calming nature, just what I needed when my Lhasa Apso was injured by a pit bull. She clearly explained everything in an understandable way. She also checked in with us (while we were there) to let us know what was going on. Thank you very much!

R. and B. Boone say...

The technical staff in the ICU is excellent and equally professional in providing the care, we feel, brought about Brandi’s recovery.

Don and Holly Michel say...

I20 is the greatest !! They gave us four extra years with our precious Yorkie, Cujo, and are helping us take care of our other precious Yorkie, Carrie, who is diabetic. They are deep in our hearts.

Alicia Patterson & Percy said...

I cannot thank you enough for everything the doctor and the rest of I-20 Animal Medical Center did to save my cat, Percy. Your care and compassion for my family during this emotional time was overwhelming.

Michelle & Greg Lacy say...

Greg and I could not be any more pleased with I20 Animal Medical Center for always being there for us when we need you most!

Yvonne Fiore says...

This was our first experience at I-20 Animal Medical Center. I was so impressed by Dr. Bloom, her real care, concern and understanding for my Cinnamon. My pets have been as loved as my children, thus, I expect excellent loving care and I and Cinnamon got this per Dr. Bloom and Jessica. Thank you!

Kristin Rush says...

The staff was wonderful and you can tell that they are real animal lovers. They were very thorough when checking out my dog and I didn’t feel at all like Jack was “just another dog”. They genuinely cared and explained everything very well. Loved them

Heather Matson says...

I have recommended I-20 to friends due to the compassionate and wonderful service we have received. Thank you for everything you have done for us. The doctors are wonderful as well as the techs and the rest of the staff. Thank you

Rhonda Holley says...

I have been to lots of vet clinics. Yours is the best in every way that I have ever seen! Thanks for restoring my faith in excellent veterinary care!

Matt Smoot says...

Dr. Bloom is wonderful! She put our mind at ease and alleviated all of our concerns about Spice’s surgery. We plan on using her for all of our pet’s needs in the future and will highly recommend her services to our friends and family! Thank you I-20 Animal Medical Center.

Staci Thomas says...

The service was amazing! I came in as a referral for a critical condition. I was extremely upset and concerned about my pet’s life. The staff quickly attended to us making efforts to stabilize Sebastian and provide me with a quiet and calm area. I really appreciated the service I received

Leah and Ron Bullard say...

We very much appreciate the skill and training you have and it was very evident in the procedures you performed on our dogs. Each of them had issues, some serious, and each of them are much better now, thanks to you and your staff.

Valerie Jordan says......

My family and I were so impressed by every contact we had with the staff. I have been to medical doctors for procedures and did not get such service. I have already called family members and recommended you guys, keep up the great work!

Maryann Livengood says....

The staff was extremely concerned and courteous- Dr. Stinson saved my cat's life! Also pricing extremely reasonable for a 24-hr care facility.

Paula Emmons says....

I-20 Animal Medical Center is amazing!! All the doctors, technicians and staff are the best. We had to take one of our dogs in for an emergency and everyone who helped us was great with our dog and with us. They encouraged us to call when we had to leave him and always answered and updated us on how he was doing through the nigh (even with many calls in a very short amount of time). The next morning Dr. Welch called and said that they had found something. She told us that Mikey was not going to make it and let us have hours to say goodbye. They answered all our questions and never once made us feel like we were imposing on her or her time. We have found a new clinic for all our dogs because of Dr. Welch and all the staff

Save A Mexican Mutt Rescue says...

I would like to thank the staff of I-20 for a great experience with one of our rescue dogs, Cuervo. Shortly after his rescue, we realized he had a broken canine tooth that would require a root canal. For sure we were not going to find a veterinary dentist in Mexico. So, I-20 Animal Medical Center came to the rescue! Dr. Bonnie Bloom and Dr. Ken Karger took great care of Cuervo upon our arrival. The staff at I-20 is always so friendly, professional, and socially in tune to rescue.

Jim and Kay Marshall say...

Excellent Care! I highly recommend you to our friends. Thanks to all the staff, especially Dr. Welch - we have a healthy dog once again. The love you and the girls showered on Rainey showed me how much you all love animals.

Janice Bunting with Tye says...

Our vet Dr. Litsey, referred us to you when Tye needed special boarding. We were very pleased with his care. We also really appreciated the staff's willingness to talk with us every time we called the ICU to check on him. It made it so much easier to be away from him. He came home a healthier and spunkier dog. Dr. Long was great with Tye and felt she took very good care to properly diagnose his condition and treatment.

Dave and Pamela Reitzel say….

“Cutie was a stray. When I took Cutie to I-20 Animal they were concerned for her health, and made arrangements to see her the next day. I-20 Animal set me at ease about Cutie after her exam. Now knowing that she is and was in good hands, I-20 Animal will be where I will take both my pets. VERY IMPRESSED!!.”

Nancy Schultz says…

“The doctor called the next day to check on Sophie and was genuinely interested in how she was doing. Very well done”

James Jacobs says...

“Huge thanks to the staff and doctors for the excellent care that Sasha received. The explanations about her care and pricing were first class. Thank you once again”

J. Headland says...

I cannot say enough how great Dr. Stinson and the staff were with Dirk and explaining the procedures. We have found a "new" place that I feel confident will take care of and actually care about Dirk. I have and will continue to tell our firends, family and co-workers how much we love I-20 Animal Medical Center.

LaTonya Thomas says...

"Shasha get's excited every time we exit the freeway to come to the I-20 Animal Clinic. Everyone there is so friendly and concerned about my pet's well being. Thank you all for such outstanding service."

J. Beed says...

"I just wanted to say thanks for your help yesterday! Mr. Fluffers had a great time getting his shots and I actually think he wanted to go back instead of driving home! :) Lauren and Kimberly were great! I'm sure Mr. Fluffers hopes to see them when he gets his booster in a few weeks. Thanks again!"

Laura Roberts says...

I brought in a stray that had been hit by a car. The care was immediate and excellent. I was very impressed with the facility and quality of service. Thanks so much for the crate to transport him. It was very helpful!

Richard Jezek says...

High five kudos to Dr. Killman! She, with the help of the entire treating staff saved our TomTom’s life! Dr. Killman, Dr. Welch and Dr. Smith have renewed my faith in the caring veterinarian that we were looking for.

Brenda Rowland says...

Would like to thank the staff and doctors for the great care they gave our Tabby. The care given to Tabby was so kind and courteous. I am so grateful I chose I-20 Animal Medical Center.

Laura and Ricardo Grant & Nunook say...

Dr. Doherty and all of the vet techs that helped Nunook were so great. Words cannot convey how much we appreciate the great work everyone did for Nunook. He is our baby and he makes our family whole. Thank you for all that you do.

Marcia Marrow says...

Dr. Welch is amazing. She has a very calming nature, just what I needed when my Lhasa Apso was injured by a pit bull. She clearly explained everything in an understandable way. She also checked in with us (while we were there) to let us know what was going on. Thank you very much!

R. and B. Boone say...

The technical staff in the ICU is excellent and equally professional in providing the care, we feel, brought about Brandi’s recovery.

Don and Holly Michel say...

I20 is the greatest !! They gave us four extra years with our precious Yorkie, Cujo, and are helping us take care of our other precious Yorkie, Carrie, who is diabetic. They are deep in our hearts.

Alicia Patterson & Percy said...

I cannot thank you enough for everything the doctor and the rest of I-20 Animal Medical Center did to save my cat, Percy. Your care and compassion for my family during this emotional time was overwhelming.

Michelle & Greg Lacy say...

Greg and I could not be any more pleased with I20 Animal Medical Center for always being there for us when we need you most!

Yvonne Fiore says...

This was our first experience at I-20 Animal Medical Center. I was so impressed by Dr. Bloom, her real care, concern and understanding for my Cinnamon. My pets have been as loved as my children, thus, I expect excellent loving care and I and Cinnamon got this per Dr. Bloom and Jessica. Thank you!

Kristin Rush says...

The staff was wonderful and you can tell that they are real animal lovers. They were very thorough when checking out my dog and I didn’t feel at all like Jack was “just another dog”. They genuinely cared and explained everything very well. Loved them

Heather Matson says...

I have recommended I-20 to friends due to the compassionate and wonderful service we have received. Thank you for everything you have done for us. The doctors are wonderful as well as the techs and the rest of the staff. Thank you

Rhonda Holley says...

I have been to lots of vet clinics. Yours is the best in every way that I have ever seen! Thanks for restoring my faith in excellent veterinary care!

Matt Smoot says...

Dr. Bloom is wonderful! She put our mind at ease and alleviated all of our concerns about Spice’s surgery. We plan on using her for all of our pet’s needs in the future and will highly recommend her services to our friends and family! Thank you I-20 Animal Medical Center.

Staci Thomas says...

The service was amazing! I came in as a referral for a critical condition. I was extremely upset and concerned about my pet’s life. The staff quickly attended to us making efforts to stabilize Sebastian and provide me with a quiet and calm area. I really appreciated the service I received

Leah and Ron Bullard say...

We very much appreciate the skill and training you have and it was very evident in the procedures you performed on our dogs. Each of them had issues, some serious, and each of them are much better now, thanks to you and your staff.

Valerie Jordan says......

My family and I were so impressed by every contact we had with the staff. I have been to medical doctors for procedures and did not get such service. I have already called family members and recommended you guys, keep up the great work!

Maryann Livengood says....

The staff was extremely concerned and courteous- Dr. Stinson saved my cat's life! Also pricing extremely reasonable for a 24-hr care facility.

Paula Emmons says....

I-20 Animal Medical Center is amazing!! All the doctors, technicians and staff are the best. We had to take one of our dogs in for an emergency and everyone who helped us was great with our dog and with us. They encouraged us to call when we had to leave him and always answered and updated us on how he was doing through the nigh (even with many calls in a very short amount of time). The next morning Dr. Welch called and said that they had found something. She told us that Mikey was not going to make it and let us have hours to say goodbye. They answered all our questions and never once made us feel like we were imposing on her or her time. We have found a new clinic for all our dogs because of Dr. Welch and all the staff

Save A Mexican Mutt Rescue says...

I would like to thank the staff of I-20 for a great experience with one of our rescue dogs, Cuervo. Shortly after his rescue, we realized he had a broken canine tooth that would require a root canal. For sure we were not going to find a veterinary dentist in Mexico. So, I-20 Animal Medical Center came to the rescue! Dr. Bonnie Bloom and Dr. Ken Karger took great care of Cuervo upon our arrival. The staff at I-20 is always so friendly, professional, and socially in tune to rescue.

Jim and Kay Marshall say...

Excellent Care! I highly recommend you to our friends. Thanks to all the staff, especially Dr. Welch - we have a healthy dog once again. The love you and the girls showered on Rainey showed me how much you all love animals.

Janice Bunting with Tye says...

Our vet Dr. Litsey, referred us to you when Tye needed special boarding. We were very pleased with his care. We also really appreciated the staff's willingness to talk with us every time we called the ICU to check on him. It made it so much easier to be away from him. He came home a healthier and spunkier dog. Dr. Long was great with Tye and felt she took very good care to properly diagnose his condition and treatment.

Dave and Pamela Reitzel say….

“Cutie was a stray. When I took Cutie to I-20 Animal they were concerned for her health, and made arrangements to see her the next day. I-20 Animal set me at ease about Cutie after her exam. Now knowing that she is and was in good hands, I-20 Animal will be where I will take both my pets. VERY IMPRESSED!!.”

Nancy Schultz says…

“The doctor called the next day to check on Sophie and was genuinely interested in how she was doing. Very well done”

James Jacobs says...

“Huge thanks to the staff and doctors for the excellent care that Sasha received. The explanations about her care and pricing were first class. Thank you once again”

J. Headland says...

I cannot say enough how great Dr. Stinson and the staff were with Dirk and explaining the procedures. We have found a "new" place that I feel confident will take care of and actually care about Dirk. I have and will continue to tell our firends, family and co-workers how much we love I-20 Animal Medical Center.

LaTonya Thomas says...

"Shasha get's excited every time we exit the freeway to come to the I-20 Animal Clinic. Everyone there is so friendly and concerned about my pet's well being. Thank you all for such outstanding service."

J. Beed says...

"I just wanted to say thanks for your help yesterday! Mr. Fluffers had a great time getting his shots and I actually think he wanted to go back instead of driving home! :) Lauren and Kimberly were great! I'm sure Mr. Fluffers hopes to see them when he gets his booster in a few weeks. Thanks again!"