Why Dental Care Is Important
Proper dental care can detect dental disease that not only affects the mouth, but can also lead to more serious health problems such as heart, lung, and kidney disease. Good dental hygiene is just as important for pets as it is for humans. It is one of the most overlooked areas in pet health. Studies by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) reveal that nearly two-thirds of pet owners do not provide the dental care recommended by their veterinarians.
How It Starts and Progresses
Periodontal Disease starts out as a bacterial film called plaque. The bacteria attaches to the teeth. When the bacteria die, they can be calcified by calcium in saliva. This forms a hard, rough substance called tartar or calculus, which allows more plaque to accumulate. Initially, the plaque is soft and brushing or chewing hard food, and toys can dislodge it. If left to spread, plaque can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, causing them to become red and swollen and to bleed easily. As plaque and calculus develop below the gum line, professional cleaning will be needed to help manage it. If the plaque and tartar buildup continues unchecked, an infection can form around the root of the tooth.
In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues surrounding the tooth are destroyed, the bony socket holding the tooth in erodes, and the tooth becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your four-legged friend, but these problems can be averted before they start with proper dental care.
Guidelines for Proper Pet Dental Care
Oral Examinations: Our veterinarians evaluate puppies and kittens for problems related to deciduous (baby) teeth, missing teeth, extra teeth, swelling, and oral development. As your pet ages, we will examine your pet for developmental anomalies, accumulation of plaque and tartar, periodontal disease, and oral tumors. Our veterinarians can perform a basic oral examination while pets are awake. However, short-lasting anesthetic is required for a complete examination.
Dental cleanings: We recommend regular examinations and dental cleanings under general anesthesia for all adult dogs and cats.
Other guideline recommendations
• Pre-anesthetic exam – Our veterinarians examine your pet to ensure it is healthy enough to go under general anesthesia. This will include blood work to ensure vital organs are functioning to metabolize the anesthesia, and there are no other additional underlying health problems.
• Anesthesia monitoring – When your pet is under anesthesia, their vital signs (such as body temperature, heart rate, and respiration) will be monitored and recorded. This helps ensure your pet’s safety while under anesthesia.
• Dental radiographs – Digital x-rays of your pet’s teeth are needed periodically to evaluate your pet’s oral health. Digital x-rays also help veterinarians detect abnormalities that cannot be seen through physical examination alone. They can also confirm the need for tooth extraction when teeth are loose or badly infected.
• Scaling and polishing – Using instruments much like human dentists; we remove plaque and calculus from your pet’s teeth. Polishing with a special paste smoothes out scratches to the tooth enamel.
• Fluoride – We apply fluoride in all dogs, an anti-plaque substance. This helps strengthen and desensitize teeth and discourage the development of future plaque.
FAQ About Dental Care and Periodontal Disease
Q.Is there a physical sign that my pet has a dental problem?
A.Pets’ breath isn’t normally great smelling, but if it becomes particularly offensive, it could be a sign of a serious oral problem. Other signs include excessive drooling, loose teeth, tumors on the gums, and cysts beneath the tongue.
Q.What’s the best way to brush a dog’s teeth?
A.Use a brush or wrap your finger in gauze and hold it at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. Using small, circular motions, work in one area of the dog’s mouth at a time. Be sure to lift the dog’s lip if necessary to reach the teeth. Since the most tartar builds up on the tooth surfaces that touch the cheek, concentrate there and finish up with a downward stroke on the teeth to remove tartar. Your dog may not let you clean the backside of its teeth, but don’t worry about it because very little tartar builds up there.
Q.Is there anything else I can do to help my dog’s oral health?
A.Provide chew toys that help massage your pet’s gums and keep their teeth clean. An added benefit of chew toys is their ability to reduce your dog’s stress level, eliminate boredom, and give pets an outlet for their desire to chew
This information is provided courtesy of The American Animal Hospital Association.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth that take hold in progressive stages.
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