According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have oral disease by the age of 3. It is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in pets. Common signs of advanced oral disease include tartar buildup, red and swollen gums, bad breath, changes in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face and generalized depression.
Our veterinarians will evaluate your pet’s dental health at least once a year, as part of a complete physical examination. Bacteria and food debris can accumulate around a pet’s teeth and, if left unchecked, will lead to deterioration of the soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth. These changes can result in irreversible periodontal disease and even tooth loss. Teeth can also become broken or chipped, which can lead to more serious problems (infection) if left untreated. At out clinic, we focus heavily on preventative dental care, to help avoid our patients having sore and painful mouths and the subsequent need for extensive dental procedures.
There are other reasons why you should pay close attention to your pet’s dental health. Dental disease can affect other organs in the body: bacteria in the mouth can get into the blood stream and may cause serious kidney infections, liver disease, lung disease, and heart valve disease. Oral disease can also indicate that another disease process is occurring elsewhere in a pet’s body. A thorough physical exam combined with appropriate laboratory work can determine if this is the case.
If it is determined that a dental procedure is appropriate for your pet, we will arrange a time for them to spend the day with us. Dental procedures in cats and dogs do require a general anesthetic,as a complete dental assessment and cleaning is impossible otherwise, understandably so!! If applicable, pre-anesthetic blood testing may be performed to help ensure that your pet has no underlying problems that may complicate a general anesthetic. Once your pet is asleep, we perform a complete oral examination to identify any problem areas. The next step is to thoroughly clean the teeth both above and below the gumline, followed by a polishing of all the tooth surfaces. The final step is a fluoride treatment which is left on the teeth for one minute, then thoroughly rinsed. If a problem tooth is discovered, we may choose to x-ray the area with our dental x-ray machine to get a better understanding of what disease processes may be affecting the tooth. With this additional piece of information, a decision can be made whether the tooth can be salvaged, or if a tooth should be extracted. If a tooth is to be extracted, we will place local anesthetic blocks to ensure our patients’ comfort upon recovery from the general anesthesia. In some cases, if a tooth is diseased and we do not wish to extract it, we can make arrangements for a referral to a veterinary dental specialist for more advanced procedures such as root canals or crowns. It is very important for us to be able to communicate with owners during dental procedures, especially when we need to make decisions about the fate of a tooth. We don’t want to have any surprises at the end of the day!
We can recommend and demonstrate preventive measures you can begin at home. We begin these discussions early, with our new puppy and kitten owners, as this is the best time for you to get your pet used to having their teeth brushed! Our technicians will be happy to provide a lesson and literature on brushing your pet’s teeth, and we can even recommend diets that can aid in controlling plaque and tartar buildup. It is these preventative measures that can help minimize the need for costly dental procedures in the future
Please contact us if you have any questions about your pets’ teeth. Remember that we are your best resource for information regarding your pet’s oral care!