Pets have teeth, too!
Maintaining good oral health can add years to your pet’s life, and can make their later years more comfortable and happy!
Signs And Symptoms Of Poor Oral Health
- Persistent bad breath
- Sensitivity around the mouth
- Pawing at the mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Plaque (often not visible unless stained)
- Bleeding, inflamed, or receding gums
- Tartar (creamy brown, hard material.) This is what plaque turns into if left on the teeth.
- Loose or missing teeth
- Difficulty eating and chewing food
- In cats, a small red spot on the gum can be a sign of sever damage under the gumline in the neck area of the tooth.
The Health Problems It Causes
The problem begins when plaque and tartar are allowed to build up on your pet’s teeth. Plaque harbors the bacteria which can infect gum tissue and the roots of teeth, resulting in disease and tooth loss. Besides the pain from infection, bone and gum loss, and loose or broken teeth, bacteria enter the bloodstream through the large network of blood vessels located near the gums and teeth. Each time a pet with periodontal disease chews, a shower of bacteria enters the bloodstream and spreads to critical internal organs. Recent studies have documented that certain heart, liver and kidney disease are associated with these bacteria.
The Oral Exam
During your pet’s comprehensive annual physical examination, the oral cavity will be examined for early signs of gum disease. If you notice any of the above signs, such as bad breath, don’t wait for the annual physical examination — have one of our veterinarians examine your pet’s teeth and gums right away. They may be just fine; or they may require professional cleaning and polishing. The goal is to recognize and correct gum disease before it becomes irreversible and before it causes damage elsewhere in the body.
The Dental Cleaning
Your pet’s teeth are cleaned using a high-tech instrument that produces a high frequency sound to remove the tartar and plaque on the exposed surface of the teeth.
Hand instruments are used to probe and clean areas which can’t be reached with other instruments.
The teeth are then polished smooth with a high-speed polisher. The resulting smooth tooth surface doesn’t attract plaque as quickly.
A fluoride treatment is used to harden and desensitize the teeth.
Periodontal pockets, deep areas along the tooth root where bone has been destroyed, can now be treated with a revolutionary product (not yet available for people). Heska Periodontal Implants can be placed in these periodontal pockets, resulting in actual new bone growth into the pocket!
Severely damaged teeth may need to be extracted. This prevents the intense pain the damaged tooth can cause, and can prevent disease from extending to nearby teeth.
Antibiotics are an important part of the cleaning process, both during the cleaning procedure and afterwards. Some pets may even need antibiotics for several days before the cleaning, too.
We recommend pain medication during the procedure and for a few days afterwards to prevent discomfort. Remember, diseased teeth and gums are painful, so within a few days after the cleaning your pet should be much more comfortable than before the cleaning was done.
Since the cleaning procedure involves high frequency sound, sharp instruments, high speed polishers and drills, and much work is done under the gum line, a proper dental cleaning can only be done under general anesthesia. A pre-anesthetic laboratory workup will allow us to select the safest anesthetic for your pet. Vital signs are continuously monitored during the procedure. Older pets may need intravenous fluids given during the anesthetic procedure to maintain adequate kidney blood flow. Anesthetics such as Propofol and Sevoflurane minimize the risk associated with general anesthesia. Keep in mind the risks of not doing anything rise daily!
Special Dental Services
A broken tooth is a medical emergency! If addressed quickly after the injury, a root canal can be performed to preserve the tooth, eliminate pain, and reduce the risk of abscess formation.
In certain cases, a modified root canal procedure called pulp capping can be performed, preserving a living tooth and allowing it to continue to mature.
Preventive diets for dogs and cats, like Purina DH dental diet, can reduce tartar and plaque buildup by 50% or more. Dry foods actually provide very little cleaning action since the pieces of food shatter when chewed, never reaching the gum line where gingivitis and periodontal disease develop. But Purina DH is different. The patented kibble texture allows for greater tooth penetration before the kibble breaks apart. The unique kibble texture provides a mechanical cleaning action, helping to reduce the accumulation of plaque and tarter. It is the most popular home care option, because you don’t have to do anything “to” your pet. You’re giving them a good-tasting food.
Specially formulated chews and rinses can be very helpful in slowing the buildup of tartar and extending the time between professional dental cleanings. CET chews are rawhide chews that are coated with an antiseptic substance that greatly helps reduce plaque and tartar buildup after a dental cleaning. Tropiclean Fresh Breath is a line of water additives, gels, and treats that help keep your pets’ mouths clean and fresh between dental cleanings.
Daily tooth brushing is quite effective if done regularly. Do not use human toothpaste or baking soda. Human toothpastes are often made with various foaming agents which are intended to be rinsed, not swallowed. (Pets don’t rinse!) Even occasional consumption of these toothpastes may cause stomach problems or diarrhea. The high sodium level of baking soda may cause serious problems in some animals, especially those with kidney or heart problems. Enzyme-based flavored toothpastes are available for safe, effective brushing in dogs and cats.