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.
One of the most prevalent and overlooked health concerns for dogs and cats is dental disease. It is also a major source of prolonged pain for pets. Tarter, made up of bacteria and plaque, accumulates on pets’ teeth. If the proper dental treatment is delayed, dogs and cats can eventually develop painful diseases of the mouth, like gingivitis, recession of the gums and even infections in the tooth roots and surrounding bone. Once under the gum line, the bacteria travel into the bloodstream to all internal organs (e.g., the heart, liver, kidneys, brain), leading to chronic damage to their structure and impairing their function, which shortens the life span of the pet by as much as 25%. This can all be avoided with regular dental home care and routine professional cleanings. We recommend annual professional dental cleanings and adequate home care throughout the life of the pet beginning at the age of three or four, depending on the breed.
SIGNS YOUR PET NEEDS DENTAL CARE
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
Once the pet’s health has been thoroughly assessed by the doctor’s exam and laboratory data (i.e., blood work), an IV catheter is placed. The IV catheter is important to deliver the safest forms of anesthesia as well as IV fluids that support blood pressure and remove toxins caused by bacteria from the blood stream. If significant gingivitis is present, an injectable dose of antibiotics will be given prior to the procedure to protect the bloodstream and begin the healing phase. In most cases, only a light plane of general anesthesia is required. Once under general anesthesia, a complete exam of the mouth will be done, searching for pockets of bone loss, loose or broken teeth and tumors. The entire crown of each tooth is cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler instrument, and then a root-planing procedure is done to remove the bacteria and plaque under the gum line. When all the debris has been removed, the crown of each tooth receives both a polishing and a fluoride treatment. It is also recommended to apply a sealant to the enamel to aid with its protection.
Dental radiology (i.e., dental x-rays) is an essential tool in both humans and pets to complete the dental assessment and generate an acceptable therapeutic plan. Because 50% of each tooth is below the gum line, it is not possible to examine the entire tooth using any other method. We recommend full mouth films for every pet, every dental procedure just like your dentist does for you. X-rays will uncover any hidden painful disease, such as root abscesses, root fractures, severe bone loss of the jaw and cystic lesions, so that they can be corrected during the procedure. Dental x-rays are especially imperative in pets due to their high tolerance of pain and inability to communicate it.
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: RADIOGRAPHS
Radiographs are 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 radiographs, 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.
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.
While there are multiple reasons for anesthesia, the most important is that it maintains the safety and comfort for your pet. Evaluating and cleaning your pet’s teeth is a delicate process that requires a good amount of time. Have you ever tried to brush your pet’s teeth? It can be difficult. Now imagine trying to work on their mouth for an extended period of time! Without anesthesia your pet would have to restrained, leading to stress and tension. Using it allows us to mobilize the pet to clean the gums (where the problems lie), control pain, and place a tube into the windpipe to stop bacteria from the respiratory system.