Advanced Dental Care in Norwalk, IA

Good dental health isn’t just important for humans to maintain. Our feline and canine companions are susceptible to many of the same dental ailments as we are. Maintaining good oral health not only helps your pet’s overall health, it can help extend their life.  It has been 87% of dogs over age one and a similar percentage of cats of all ages have dental issues. Though these problems have been proven to be painful, our pets hide this pain and these symptoms. Most owners are surprised to see how much more playful their pet behaves once the unseen mouth pain is addressed.

Many conditions in the mouth result in the need to extract teeth. While dogs typically have 42 teeth and cats, 30, there are 8-10 structural teeth we want to save instead of extract if at all possible. Read on to learn more.

Our veterinary dental services include treatments for:

Dental issues are common and have hidden pain

Research shows, eighty seven percent of dogs by age three have jaw bone loss due to periodontal disease. Other studies show 69-100% of cats by age 10 have a painful condition called tooth resorption. While one would think pets would stop eating, they rarely do. Most pets that stop eating are for reasons other than dental disease, though dental pain is still present. Some call this pain, functional pain. An example of functional pain is a person with a toothache that still goes to work while awaiting their appointment to see their dentist. They are getting around and functioning and may be grumpy but are tolerating their pain. Just because a pet may tolerate their pain doesn’t mean it should go untreated. We also need to remember that teeth are like icebergs: they may look fine on top, but until intraoral x-rays are taken, we cannot see the hidden disease below. While the most common dental disease is periodontal disease (disease causing pockets and jaw bone loss surrounding the tooth), another common problem is broken teeth. Broken teeth are or will become painful. The FDA has even put out a warning about the leading cause of broken teeth, feeding bones. Bones are not appropriate chewing toys. Contact us to learn more.

Increased Anesthesia Safety

A 2017 research article of over 2 million dog and cat anesthetic events showed the chance of death during or after anesthesia to be 0.05 to 0.11%. Interestingly, more cats died after minor procedures than other types of anesthetic procedures. This may be related to the fact that some pre anesthetic testing is declined or overlooked for what is planned to be a quick sedation. While our office has not seen this sort of minor procedure resulting in anesthesia problem, we work to do anesthetic testing and close monitoring to improve the outcomes. Patients get IV catheters and fluids to help recovery as well as provide an emergency port. The blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen level, temperature, and most importantly expired carbon dioxide is monitored to provide good medicine and improve safety as shown in a study by Brodbelt with 177,000 dogs and cats. The typical patient we treat has concurrent illness. While no anesthesia is 100% risk free, we are used to dealing with involved anesthetic cases. The benefit of treating hidden painful dental problems that are known to affect the rest of the body far outweighs the risk in almost every case. Age is not a disease. A pet is not too old to have anesthesia. Patients with diabetes have less insulin resistance with good oral health. Treating pets that have dental problems is shown to reduce the risk of kidney problems by 23%. Another study showed pets with poor oral health were 6 times more likely to have heart issues. The increased systemic (whole body) inflammation noted with and potentially a result of oral disease in pets leads to further illness. Treatment and prevention through complete professional anesthetic dental procedures with intraoral x-rays is the key to helping patients live longer, healthier lives. Contact us at our Norwalk office: 515-421-4VET to learn more.

Say No to Non-Anesthetic Dentistry

There are numerous reasons dental procedures require anesthesia.

They are Worse: A 2018 study showed dogs receiving hand scaling without anesthesia had much worse mouths and hidden pain than those with no dental care.

X-rays of the Tooth Root: Dental X-rays must have anesthesia to view the almost 2/3 of each tooth that is below the gumline. Studies show only 14-28% of pets have no x-ray changes.

A False Sense of Security: A dental cleaning above the gumline without anesthesia easily reveals no problems when actually there is hidden disease providing a false sense of security.

Infection Persists: Plaque containing bacteria and bone loss begins within the gingival sulcus (the space between the gum and the tooth). This is an area that cannot be treated adequately without anesthesia.

Pain Persists: Though there are usually no outward symptoms of dental pain, pets have the same receptors as people. Pets should not have to cope with pain, yet do not know they could get relief by showing that pain to their owners.

Systemic Inflammation: There is a strong link between chronic oral disease and systemic inflammation. With chronic disease there is an increased susceptibility to more disease. Pets with annual dental care have been shown to have a 20% increased lifespan over pets with less/without.

Cosmetic at Best: The crowns of the teeth look better and whiter but bacteria and problems persist in the sulcus or deeper.

It is Below the Standard of Care: the American Veterinary Medical Association position statement and many more organizations state: Anesthesia with all dental procedures is the standard of care.

Referral Evaluations

Referral Evaluations are $100 but this awake patient consultation fee is refunded at the time of a procedure netting the cost of awake exams for referral patients to $0 when the problem is treated. Images of treatments, charts, and reports are sent to the referring veterinary clinic to keep patient medical record continuity. Images are sent home with patients as well.

3D Imaging

Three-dimensional imaging is like a human CT scan or MRI, but it uses about half (or less) as much radiation, takes 75% less time, and has 20 times (on average) more detail. The scans are as thin as 0.09 mm whereas typical human scans are 4 mm thick. This 3D or HDVI (high definition volumetric imaging) can be used to image bone as well as soft tissues, and then make a true 3D image of the layers of the scan. Read more about 3D imaging in dentistry here.

Dental Home Care 

There are many things you can do to delay the buildup of plaque on your pet’s teeth. None of these treatments remove the tartar (mineralized) that is already present. All therapies work better on a clean slate. Dental disease is a preventable disease, but the unseen nature and training of the pet to accept adequate home care make prevention less common in our pets.


  • The best home care is what you are able to DO.
  • The more of the choices you use, the better the result.
  • Use only VOHC or CET products as most others are just marketing.
  • Plaque forms tartar in 48 hrs, so home care needs to be done daily or every other day to be effective. Pets with less frequent home care showed results equal to pets receiving no home care.
  • There is a known link between lack of oral health and systemic inflammatory processes, thus pets with good oral care have healthier lives with less or better controlled diseases.

Use a combination of all categories to have the best approach for home dental care.

Veterinary Dental Services in Norwalk

A booklet with very brief descriptions of the above services can be downloaded HERE. For more information about our Dentistry Referral practice or to request an appointment, please use the Norwalk appointment button on the home page or contact our Norwalk location listed below today!

Doctors, please use this REFERRAL FORM to ensure we provide the most comprehensive care possible to your patient.

Click here for a partial list of Dental services and CE available for veterinarians

IVMA meeting attendees: Supplemental meeting materials can be found HERE

Veterinary Care in West Des Moines & Norwalk IA

Family Pet Veterinary Center in West Des Moines and Norwalk, IA is proud to serve area pet owners with a range of vet services and treatments. We are committed to helping your pets live happy, healthy lives. With both basic and advanced treatments available, you can trust we have the service ability and experience to properly treat your dog, cat, or small exotic mammal.

For more information about our practice or to request an appointment, please use the appointment buttons on the home page or contact one of our two office locations listed below today!