Veterinary Technicians and Dental Cleaning

A veterinary technician dental cleaning is great for companion animals. Don’t you just love the feeling of your teeth after a dental cleaning? Those nice and smooth pearly whites to show off to everyone? Well why shouldn’t companion animals have the same opportunity? Guess what, they do! Dental cleanings are a common procedure in most veterinary hospitals and rely heavily on the veterinary technician. There are even some veterinary hospitals that exclusively work in the dentistry aspect of veterinary medicine. Routine dental cleanings are important for companion animals to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Dental disease can lead to a variety of problems from facial abcesses to heart conditions. Veterinary technicians have the very rewarding duty of cleaning the teeth. Think of it as being a dental hygienist that cleans your teeth before the dentist examines your mouth.


The vet tech provides a central roll in the dental cleaning. It all starts with the preoperative exam where the veterinarian checks over the patient to make sure that the patient can handle the anesthetic. The vet tech helps to place an IV catheter as well as intubate the patient. Once the patient has been induced with anesthetic drugs, the veterinary technician is responsible for hooking the patient up to the anesthetic machine as well as monitoring equipment. During the procedure the vet tech is responsible for monitoring the anesthesia as well as the patients vitals (the veterinarian will often help to monitor as well). Most hospitals require that a patients vitals be taken at certain intervals and charted on a graph that will be kept with the patients dental records in the chart. The monitoring time can very, but usually the patients vitals should be taken at least every 5 minutes. The vitals include heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen level, blood pressure, temperature, capillary response time, and mucous membrane color. That is a lot of vitals! But it is important for the vet tech to monitor the patient for any abnormalities. It may also be the veterinary technicians duty to monitor the anesthetic level as well as IV fluid rate based on the patients vitals.

Now to the fun part! There is nothing more rewarding than removing the first big chunk of dental calculus (hardened plaque). Companion animals tend to build a large amount of calculus if the owner does not regularly clean the patients teeth or use dental treats. The veterinary technician will use a ultrasonic scaler to remove tarter from the teeth. After removing the tarter with the ultrasonic scaler the vet tech may need to also perform hand scaling with a dental instrumendog with tartart to be sure that all tarter is removed. The veterinary technician or veterinarian may also do subgingival scaling or root planing. Once all of the tartar is removed, the vet technician will check all teeth for any root pockets, furcation exposure, enamel defects, and any other abnormalities in the mouth. It is up to the vet tech to chart all teeth and any abnormalities for reference in future dental procedures. If the veterinary technician notices any abnormalities in a tooth, the veterinarian may decide that the tooth should be extracted. While the veterinarian is prepping for the extraction, the vet tech may be required to call the owner and discuss the potential extraction and the costs associated with it (see client interaction).

So for a veterinary technician, that is the basic dental procedure. There may be additional more advanced steps taken by the veterinarian depending on the severity of dental disease. I for one find a dental cleaning to be one of the most fun aspects of being a veterinary technician. Keep in mind that it is also the veterinary technicians duty to educate the client about dental products that can help to prevent the advancement of dental disease, for example using pet safe toothpaste and brushing daily. Also the client needs to know that there are dental treats available that help to keep the teeth clean and tartar free. By educating the client on the importance of oral health in pets, you are really helping to keep the pet as healthy as possible. And that is the overall goal of a vet tech! I highly recommend investing in a book on veterinary dentistry. I have the following:


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