Ever had a sore tooth and felt terrible? Your Pet may too....

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Google Maps location for Willunga Vet  Services

Willunga Vet Services
37 Main Rd
SA 5172

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8556 2075
8556 2654

Aldinga Vet Services
16 Heathersay Ave
Aldinga Beach
SA 5173

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8556 5498

Let me tell you a little story…

Every year I’d see a dog called Roxi for her annual health check. Some years we chatted about her playtime at the beach – catching the tennis balls rather than the skipping stones! Or how cute she was digging holes in the sand to China! Sometimes we just discussed the weather – as you do!

I usually find it really easy to chat about stuff – it helps having a house to renovate, a dog called Buster (and a cat called Jet who recently passed away L), 2 rascally kids and their frazzled mother, a veggie patch, regular fishing escapades…shall I go on!

The other thing I find really easy is discussing what is best for our pets.

Roxi is a pretty robust run-of-the-mill crossbred Collie. Run-of-the-mill isn’t meant as an insult either – more of a slang term to mean she’s a perfectly normal dog!

Year on year, she continued in good health but around the age of 7 she started to show some tartar buildup on a few teeth.

When I first noticed this, we discussed her chewing habits and the bits and pieces that could be added into her diet to help prevent any further buildup. You see – the tartar (or calculus as it can also be known) becomes very hard – a bit like cement. Once it’s there, it’s virtually impossible to get rid of without using proper dentistry gear.

The following year, after 12 months of happy dog play and the odd cat chase and one grass seed in the ear, Roxi turned up for her annual health check.

Once again, she had a clean bill of health but her tartar levels had increased – there was also some gingivitis now present. This gum inflammation is a direct consequence of plaque and tartar and speeds up dental disease.

Now at this point, I actually felt within myself that the best thing for Roxi was some dentistry – a simple ultrasonic scale and polish procedure, however I picked up on a little reluctance from her owner so I simply discussed some home care strategy again – after only a brief mention of a scale and polish.

Looking back now Roxi was starting to be effected by dental disease at this point and would have been starting to ‘suffer’ a similar kind of pain and health issues we all have experienced with a bad tooth!

It was 12 months later before Roxi actually underwent dentistry. This was after her latest annual health check – her owner had commented that she had some bad breath but that she also seemed to have aged quickly (remember she was only 9 years old at this point).

During her physical examination I was able to lift her lips and really point out major tartar buildup and gingivitis. It still wasn’t her whole mouth, mainly her molars at the back of her mouth. This time I stressed the need for some dentistry work….

Under anaesthetic, we discovered major decay and she actually needed surgical extraction of two large molars as well as more simple removal of a couple of her small teeth. Her remaining teeth were ultrasonically cleaned.

This procedure cost her owner around $1000. The bigger cost was to Roxi – it cost her several chewing teeth and had created a huge risk to her kidney health and had caused her to “age”. In fact, once she had recovered, she returned to her normal bouncy self (not a bear with a sore tooth!). Her quietness, irritability and general “old” look had completely disappeared – she had been suffering in pain for possibly up to 12 months and it had all been put down to age!

Since this time we have developed our Dental Program, with a great emphasis on a simple scale and polish, including a heavily discounted rate to encourage clients to undertake this preventative treatment. (for Roxi this would have benefited when she was 7 years old when I first detected tartar – for the much lower fee of $215).

We also now offer FREE Dental Checks every 6 months  – this way we are able to catch dental problem a little earlier.

We’ve also developed our dentistry procedures and can now offer you a range of services from basic Scale and Polish to surgical dentistry, something Roxi would have benefited from earlier.

Since her dental work, Roxi has had a senior health check every 6 months (since she is over the age of 9 years) and as part of this check I lift her lip (and check her teeth!) every time.  In fact, she has had another dentistry procedure but this time is was just a scale and polish!

About 6 months ago we (the practice) sat down and discussed our dentistry program and have included a heavily discounted scale and polish scheme with the pure un-adulterated intention of encouraging scale and polishes to PREVENT future dental issues. Despite a fee discount, a scale and polish still incorporates all our values as follows:

  • Every patient receives an admission appointment to discuss the ins and outs.
  • We perform a blood PCV and TP test and a full pre-anaesthetic health exam (and really encourage you to take up an upgraded pre-anaesthetic test).
  • Every patient is placed on IV fluids during their anaesthetic and has before and after photos taken of their teeth.
  • At the beginning of the procedure, we score each tooth individually and compile an oral map.
  • On discharge, every client receives a thorough dental kit with information and samples designed to prevent tartar buildup.
  • We then schedule free 6 monthly dental checks to ensure things are on the right track.

For some clients, this has meant a scale and polish procedure being performed 2-3 times within a few years, for others, the home care program has been enough. Either way, their pets have healthy mouths and have the assurance of living pain free and for longer.

For both Roxi’s owner and myself, we’ve learnt the hard way. Now, as soon as I see tartar in a patient’s mouth, I recommend a scale and polish procedure. This forms the start of a life-long commitment to dental disease prevention.


An example of Before and after Dental Treatment, including Scale and Polish


A scale and polish for cats is $195, smaller dogs $215 and larger dogs $245. Compare this to the much higher costs when teeth require extraction. And remember, there is still the odd occasion where a scale and polish has been scheduled, only for us to find more serious problems once the pet is under anaesthetic. This is still great – we then have the opportunity to fix the problem, however it then falls under the higher fee for more complex dentistry work.

Don’ forget, even with Medicare or Health insurance, a visit to the dentist can set ourselves back anywhere from $200-500 and just for one or two teeth, not the whole mouth and not including an anesthetic or intravenous fluids.

My last note! Consider Pet Insurance to assist in covering some of the cost of Dental Treatments, both preventative and emergency work. We would perform dentistry work on a minimum 2-3 pets a day within our practice,  a figure that is increasing as owners continue to develop an understanding for the issues dental disease can have on their pets.

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