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Dentistry & Dental Surgery

At Hillcrest Animal Hospital, we provide the very highest level of veterinary dental and oral care in the Bartlett and greater Memphis area, and throughout Tennessee.

Dentistry & Dental Surgery | Hillcrest Animal Hospital

What is dentistry for pets?

Veterinary dentistry covers the cleaning, adjustment, filling, extraction, or repair of your pets' teeth, as well as oral health care. 

Why is regular dental care important for cats and dogs?

Dental problems in cats or dogs can be related to a variety of other health problems. Bacteria from the mouth can travel to other parts of your pet's system, and can develop into problems. Without regular cleaning, pets are also susceptible to periodontal (gum) disease. 

Regular (annual) dental cleaning will allow the vet to identify early signs of a problem and prevent it from becoming serious.

  • Your pet's teeth are as important as your teeth. They are impacted by all the same types of conditions. Regular dental care helps prevent your pet's teeth and gums from decaying and leading to more substantial problems like gum disease or tooth loss.
    - Dr. Kim Hunt

Symptoms of Dental Problems

Common symptoms indicating dental problems include: 

  • Bad breath
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Teeth with discoloration or tartar buildup
  • Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • Pain or swelling in or around the mouth
  • Bleeding from the mouth

If your dog or cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, it's best to bring him or her in to see one of our vets.

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Dental Surgery & Anesthesia

Hillcrest Animal Hospital offers a progressive dentistry and oral surgery center that provides compassionate oral care for the veterinary patient.

When you go to the dentist, you know that what’s being done is meant to help you and keep your mouth healthy. Your dentist uses techniques to minimize pain and discomfort and can ask you how you are feeling, so you accept the procedures and do your best to keep still.

But, your pet does not understand any of this – and he or she reacts by moving, trying to escape, or even biting.

The use of anesthesia makes it possible to perform dental procedures with less stress and pain for your pet. Additionally, if digital radiographs (x-rays) are needed, your pet must be very still in order to get good images. Sedation or anesthesia helps with this.

Preventative Dental Care

Your pet should visit the dentist every year for an oral health checkup.

The process begins with an examination of your pet’s mouth by the veterinarian. X-rays may be required to evaluate the health of the jaw and the tooth roots.

Since most dental disease in animals occurs below the gumline, where you can’t see it, a thorough dental cleaning and evaluation must be performed under anesthesia.

The dental cleaning will consist of scaling (to remove dental plaque and tartar) and polishing, much like the process of your own dental cleanings.

FAQs About Dentistry & Dental Surgery for Pets


  • How is the dental care treatment at Hillcrest Animal Hospital different?

    We strive to provide a relaxed experience for you and your pet. Pets love to curl up on our cushy chairs!

    Our modern veterinary dental surgery suite appears similar to a dental office that you and your family would visit.

    We use much of the same equipment including high-speed dental units, digital dental radiography units, and leading edge anesthesia monitoring and delivery equipment.

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  • What is the difference between periodontal disease and gingivitis?

    Periodontal (gum) disease is a progressive disease of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth and the main cause of early tooth loss.

    Periodonal disease starts when bacteria combines with food particles to form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with the plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth.

    The bacteria then work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis — inflammation of the gums.

    Once under the gums, the bacteria destroy the supporting tissue around the tooth, leading to tooth loss. This condition is known as periodontitis.

    Gingivitis and periodontitis make up the changes that are referred to as periodontal disease. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys, and liver.

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  • What is the risk of my pet developing periodontal disease?

    By some estimates, 85 percent of all pets have some level of periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years of age.

    Talk To Your Vet To Learn More

  • What's involved in a dental cleaning for my cat or dog?

    A dental cleaning may include the following:

    • Removal of visible plaque and tartar from the teeth

    • Elimination of plaque and tartar from under the gum

    • Probing of dental sockets to assess dental disease

    • Polishing to smooth enamel scratches that may attract bacteria

    • Dental radiographs (X-rays) to evaluate problems below the gumline

    • Application of fluoride or a dental sealer

    • Removal or repair of fractured or infected teeth

    • Dental charting so progression of dental disease can be monitored over time

    • Inspection of the lips, tongue, and entire mouth for growths, wounds, or other problems

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  • What can I do at home to keep my pet's teeth clean?

    Once a dental cleaning has been performed, you can take a number of steps at home to keep your pet’s teeth clean.

    Your veterinarian may recommend a plaque prevention product — a substance that you apply to your pet’s teeth and gums on a weekly basis. The product adheres to the teeth surface to create a barrier that prevents plaque from forming.

    Just as in people, daily brushing can help remove food particles from between your pet’s teeth. You can use a child’s toothbrush or purchase a finger brush from your veterinarian.

    Certain diets and treats can also help keep plaque and tartar to a minimum. The diets tend to have larger kibbles to provide abrasive action against the tooth surface when chewed. Or they may contain ingredients that help prevent tartar mineralization.

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  • What are the risks with anaethesia?

    Although anesthesia will always have risks, it’s safer now than ever and continues to improve so that the risks are very low and are far outweighed by the benefits.

    Most pets can go home on the day of the procedure, although they might seem a little groggy for the rest of the day.

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