Assessment Step 6: Oral Examination Under Anesthesia

The foundation of oral assessment is a visual tooth-by-tooth examination under anesthesia, with the help of the periodontal probe, explorer and dental x-rays. Results of this exam will help determine if disease is present that requires immediate or follow-up care.

Examine the mouth for missing or extra teeth. Missing teeth need further evaluation to determine if they are present, located below the gingiva line or if only the roots are present.

Missing first mandibular premolar

Crowded mandibular fourth premolar and first molar causing periodontal disease

Normal gum line appearance

Inflamed gingiva caused by hair shafts irritation below the gum line

Periodontal Probe

A periodontal probe is used to measure the depth of the gingival crevice in millimeters and help evaluate the extent of periodontal support. Insert the periodontal probe into the gingival crevice and record millimeter findings. With gentle pressure, the probe will stop where the gingiva attaches to the tooth or at the bottom of the tooth socket if the attachment is lost.

Every ORAL ATP® visit conducted under general anesthesia should include probing and charting. Depending on their sizes, dogs without periodontal disease have probing depths less than 1–4 mm.

Periodontal probe before insertion

Periodontal probe showing 6 mm pocket depth

Cats normally have probing depths less than 1 mm. Greater depths may indicate periodontal disease requiring treatment.

Dental Explorer

The dental explorer has a sharp point used to examine the root surface for calculus and tooth resorption and the crown for areas of pulpal exposure.


Charting Results

At the end of the visual and probing examination, complete a dental chart, listing all abnormal findings. Use the chart to identify observed pathology and develop a treatment plan that will address any abnormalities.

Completed dental chart

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