We recommend having your pet’s teeth checked and cleaned at least
ONCE A YEAR.
Dental care is an important and often overlooked factor in keeping your pet healthy and happy. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by three years of age. Consistent home dental care and routine professional examinations can help prevent problems like bad breath or oral infections.
SIGNS YOUR PET NEEDS DENTAL CARE
It is estimated that over 2/3 of dogs over the age of three have a condition called periodontal disease, which is an inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth. Periodontal disease starts as gingivitis caused by plaque and often progresses to involve the bony tooth sockets. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to painful tooth loss.
There are many different ways to check and see if your pet may be having dental issues, but there are also signs that may not be as visible. This is why veterinarians recommend having your pet’s teeth checked annually. Here are some things to keep an eye (or nose) out for:
Broken, loose, or missing teeth
Discoloration or tartar build up
Excessive chewing or drooling
Reduced appetite or inability to chew
Swelling and bleeding in or around the mouth
Common Pet Dental Care Questions
HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY PET IS DUE FOR A DENTAL CLEANING?
When rough tartar accumulates on the tooth surface and touches the gum line, it is time for a professional oral assessment, treatment, and prevention visit. At your pet’s dental exam, your veterinarian will confirm that a dental cleaning is needed.
WHAT DOES A DENTAL CLEANING ENTAIL?
A dental cleaning visit will include a thorough dental exam, teeth cleaning, and polishing to remove the tartar and periodontal disease-causing plaque. This will be done while your pet is under general anesthesia. Anesthesia is important to allow a tooth-by-tooth examination, including dental x-rays. A dental probe will be used to evaluate gum bleeding and periodontal pockets, where food can accumulate and decay if not properly cared for. When periodontal disease is advanced, it may not be possible to save the badly affected teeth, which may lead to extractions at the time of the cleaning or at a later time.
The treatment your pet may require will be discussed with you after the cleaning, once each tooth and the gums have been checked. Since it can be difficult to predict the extent of the dental disease in advance of the procedure, your veterinarian may contact you during the procedure to discuss any additional treatment that may be necessary.
Why are dental x-rays important?
Dental x-rays on our pets are similar to those taken in humans. An x-ray machine using a small amount of radiation, is used to see the inside of your pets teeth and those areas below the gum line that are hidden from view.
Our pets simply can not tell us when their teeth are diseased, and some never show that they are in pain even though they are uncomfortable. In many cases, x-rays are the only way for your veterinarian to know your pet has a serious dental problem that can be treated, relieving discomfort. Cleaning your pet’s teeth without x-rays often results in the missed opportunities to improve the quality of life and the health of your pet.
WHAT IS THE ORAL HEALTH PROCEDURE?
STEP 1: SUPRAGINGIVAL CLEANING
The tartar and plaque that is visible above the gum line is removed so that all surfaces of each tooth may be visualized.
STEP 2: SUBGINGIVAL CLEANING
This is cleaning the area under the gum line. In our animal patients, this is the most important step. The subgingival plaque and calculus is what causes periodontal disease. This is the most common ailment diagnosed in ALL animal patients. Cleaning the tooth surface above the gum line will make the teeth look nice, but in reality does little medically for the patient.
STEP 3: ASSESSMENT
The veterinarian evaluates the entire oral cavity and records any abnormalities on a special dental record. Some examples of oral abnormalities are: tongue or lip lesions, deep pockets in the gums around the teeth and loose, broken or discolored teeth.
STEP 4: ADVANCED DENTAL IMAGING
Advanced Dental Imaging is taken of every tooth in the mouth to discover problems, such as retained roots, enamel defects, root abscesses and bone loss due to infection.
STEP 5: POLISHING
The mechanical removal of the plaque and calculus causes microscopic roughening of the tooth surface. This roughening increases the retentive ability of the tooth for plaque and calculus. Polishing will smooth the surface and decrease the adhesive ability of plaque.
STEP 6: SUB-GINGIVAL LAVAGE
The scaling and polishing of the teeth will cause a lot of debris to become trapped under the gums. This will cause local inflammation, as well as increase the chance of future periodontal disease. For this reason, we gently flush the gingiva with an antibacterial solution.
STEP 7: FLUORIDE TREATMENT
The benefit of fluoride is that it strengthens enamel, decreases tooth sensitivity and is reported to slow the formation of Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions thanks to its anti-plaque qualities. Fluoride can be toxic if swallowed by dogs and cats; therefore, we carefully remove any excess fluoride from the mouth before waking your pet.
STEP 8: TREATMENTS
If any abnormalities were found during the assessment and Dental Advanced Imaging, various treatments may be recommended. Some examples of treatments are: tooth extraction, bonded sealants of fractures and local antibiotic treatment of pockets around the teeth. The veterinarian will explain any abnormalities and discuss treatment options. We are happy to provide an estimate at each stage of this procedure.
STEP 9: PREVENTION
Prevention is one of the most important parts of the oral hygiene procedure.
Could my pet be in pain?
Our pets have a strong natural instinct to hide pain, so this can be difficult to recognize. Many times they will mask the pain and owners may not even notice a difference in their pet’s eating or day-to-day routines. This is why our pets will continue eating, even if their teeth look or smell bad. Some lesser known indications of pain include increased licking, altered or heavy breathing, changes in posture, and changes in sleep habits.