Once dental disease has reached a threshold the only effective treatment is dental work under anesthesia. Because getting under the gum line is painful, awake animals won't allow proper cleaning in that area, allowing infections to continue to eat away the jaw bone. Also, to take intra-oral (x-ray plate in the mouth) radiographs, anesthesia is a necessity. Without radiographs, problems will go unnoticed and a pet will have to suffer from painful and infected teeth.
Once asleep we will x-ray all the teeth. This, in combination with an anesthetized dental exam, tells us which teeth need extraction because disease is too far progressed and which teeth are healthy enough to stay.
Once painful and infected teeth have been extracted (we use local nerve blocks to reduce pain) the remaining teeth will be cleaned, scaled and polished. In anesthetized patients we are also able to clean under the gum line, which is extremely important to get rid of infection of the gums and bones to prevent progression.
Usually your pet will be able to go home the same day. If there are extractions, often they will be sent home with pain medication and instructions to feed soft food for an amount of time to allow the stitches to heal.