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Southern Hills adds dental equipment to Creston location

Dr. Melissa James cleans plaque from the teeth of a dog brought into the Creston office of Southern Hills Veterinary Services. The Creston office added dental equipment at the beginning of February, making it easier, and more convenient, for Creston pet owners to get their pet's teeth cleaned. Before the animals had to be transported to Corning for the procedure.
Dr. Melissa James cleans plaque from the teeth of a dog brought into the Creston office of Southern Hills Veterinary Services. The Creston office added dental equipment at the beginning of February, making it easier, and more convenient, for Creston pet owners to get their pet's teeth cleaned. Before the animals had to be transported to Corning for the procedure.

The Creston office of Southern Hills Veterinary Services acquired new dental equipment at the beginning of February, making it easier for Creston pet owners to get their pet’s teeth cleaned.

Before the equipment came, the cleanings were done in Corning, which required that the pet owners dropped their pets off before 7:30 a.m. once a month so veterinarian Melissa James could load them into her vehicle and drive them to Corning for their cleaning.

In order to get the equipment used for dental cleanings, the clinic was required to have a machine that provided inhaled anesthesia, which it obtained sometime last year.

Having equipment in Creston means the potential is there to do dental cleanings nearly any day of the week.

“Depends on the day,” said James. “Since we are a mixed animal practice, there are days that we generally have a large animal doctor here, like Tuesday. Tuesdays, generally, we wouldn’t be doing a lot of these because we don’t have a small animal practitioner over here. But that’s all subject to change.”

James also recommends calling one to two weeks ahead to schedule a dental cleaning.

Since they started doing cleanings at the Creston office, James said they have done probably 20 to 25 cleanings or about two to three each week.

Dental health is a critical component to the well being of pets, and just like humans, pets often require regular dental cleanings.

Besides the pain and bad breath that can come with poor dental health, dogs can also face a multitude of other health problems if their teeth are not properly cared for.

“There’s a great blood supply in the mouth,” said James, “so if there’s a lot of bacteria in the mouth from dental disease, bacterial build up and infection can seep into other organs. Target organs would be the heart and the kidneys, so we’d see advancing kidney disease in dogs with moderate to severe dental disease.”

The procedure begins with an injected pre-med sedative followed shortly by inhaled anesthesia, then a tube is inserted in their throat to help them breath and James starts cleaning. While she’s cleaning, she checks for any loose or broken teeth and removes them.

“Any teeth that are loose, that tells me the periodontal ligaments have already broken down,” James said. “They’ve already got disease below the gum line, so it’s better to pull that infected tooth rather than try to preserve it. It’s never going to get better because you can’t heal periodontal ligaments, so we pull that tooth so it doesn’t continue to be a problem.”

The number and frequency of cleanings depends on the animal, James said.

“I’d say for most dogs, buy the time they’re 5 or 6, they need their first dental,” James said, “but not every dog. Our toy breed dogs tend to need them sooner, younger, and often times they need them more often. Some of our little dogs get them every single year, while our large breed dogs tend to go a little longer, so they might need one every three or four years.”

The cost of dental cleanings is one thing James said that is nearly impossible to gauge over the telephone. She said in order for her to give a more accurate account of the cost, she would need to see the animal in person, but in general the dental work itself is not necessarily the bulk of the cost. It’s between anesthesia, and whether or not the animal will require pain medication and antibiotics.

If she has to pull teeth, pain medication and antibiotics are added to the cost, but a routine dental on a small dog might be $200.

“If we have a large breed dog, and they’re losing a lot of teeth, the cost of extraction is also in there,” James said. “Time under inhaled anesthesia matters, so you might be in the $400 to $500 range, if it’s a large dog or a dog that has a lot of extractions or difficult extractions.”

For cats, the procedure is generally the same. However, James said extractions on cats are a little trickier, especially for lower teeth because a cat’s jaw is small and the teeth are much smaller.

“The Creston owners are very excited,” said veterinary technician Maggie McGehee. “We told them that we have a dental machine now, and we heard a sigh of relief from them because now they can drop [their pets] off with us and know that in a couple of hours they can come get them.”

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