Performing a complete dental prophylaxis entails much more than removing plaque and calculus from the teeth. A thorough dental
prophylaxis consists of educating the client, an oral examination, charting disease process, pathology and anomalies, radiographs,
both supra and sub-gingival plaque and calculus removal, hand scaling, polishing, irrigation and home care instructions.
There are many ways in which to educate the client on the importance of dental health. It is important to explain the disease
progression from the formation of dental plaque to dental calculus or tartar and then gingivitis and to the destruction of
the periodontal tissues including the loss of the bone supporting the tooth and tooth loss.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Visual aids such as posters in the treatment rooms showing the progression of oral disease
and the impact on the internal organs can be used to gain the client's interest. Pictures of healthy mouths versus diseased
mouths are another useful tool. The use of plastic models that have a healthy side and a diseased side is a hands-on way to
show disease. These are all helpful in the educational element of dental prophylaxis.
Preventive Antibiotic Therapy
Questions are often asked about the use of preventive antibiotic therapy in patients who present for a dental prophylaxis.
The main objective of preventive antibiotic therapy is to prevent treatment induced bacteremia. Bacteremia will typically
clear in approximately 20 minutes. The use of preventive antibiotics should only be necessary in patients that are not able
to cope with this treatment induced bacteremia. Geriatric or debilitated animals, patients with a pre-existing heart or system
disease or immunocompromised patients should receive preventive antibiotic therapy.
Preventive antibiotic therapy will also aid in controlling wound infections. Therefore animals with gross infections (marked
swelling, pus formation, fever, lymphadenopathy, and elevated WBC count) chronic stomatitis, multiple extractions, may also
benefit from receiving antibiotics prior to treatment. Clinical judgment should be used in diagnosis of the infection and
the use of antibiotic therapy.
The choice of antibiotic and protocol for delivery is controversial. The antibiotic chosen must be active against Gram-positive
and Gram-negative aerobes and anaerobes. Just as important as the choice of antibiotic is the timing of delivery. The generally
accepted protocol should have antibiotics administered within two hours of the surgery and not continued for more than four
hours after the procedure. In addition, antibiotics must be delivered at a dose high enough to reach a tissue level of four
times higher than the MIC of the causative organisms.
In addition to preventive antibiotic therapy, antiseptics have a role in veterinary dental prophylaxis and oral surgery. Antiseptics
help to reduce the number of bacteria in the oral cavity prior and during procedures. Chlorhexidine gluconate is the antiseptic
of choice for use in animals. Rinsing the oral cavity with an antiseptic prior to procedures gives a cleaner environment to
work in and can reduce bacteremia induced by dental procedures. It will also reduce the number of bacteria that are aerosolized
by dental equipment such as ultrasonic scalers. This will benefit the persons involved in the procedure. Bacteria may still
be present in the operatory for up to 12 hours post treatment. Remember to always wear eye protection, masks and gloves.