Why worry about your pet's teeth?Dental care is a very important part of your pet's health. Recent statistics show 1 out of 3 dogs and cats have dental disease by the time they are 3 years old. Dental disease can cause serious health issues such as heart disease, infections, tooth loss, and bone loss (jaw loss). These problems can result in the inability to eat or pain while eating.
What are the signs of dental disease?The first sign is often bad breath. Some people do not look at their dogs teeth, but it can often be obvious when disease is present. On the other hand, even if the pets teeth look ok, sometimes there is a serious problem.
A: Gingevitis is an inflammation/redness of the gums at the base of the teeth (infected gums).
B: Plaque build-up appears as hard brownish sediment that sticks on the teeth like cement.
C: Loose or missing teeth can indicate advanced dental disease, which has caused tooth loss.
D: Broken or chipped teeth may be rotten and have exposed nerves.
E: Staining and wear can occur with age, and appear as a yellowing and shortening of the teeth.
Pictures: Here are some examples of problems:
This photo shows plaque adhered to the teeth. Healthy teeth should be as white as human teeth, and free of plaque.
This photo shows gingevitis (red gumline)
..... This photo shows chipped/broken teeth
What can I do to prevent dental disease?Numerous options exist:
1. Brushing our pet's teeth is becoming a more common method of keeping our pet's teeth in good shape. It is a slow training process, but one that will pay off in the long term. Do not attempt to train this skill on your own, please see our training guide (Tooth Brushing Guide), ask one of our employees, or look at a professional training video for tips.
2. Dental diets exist for dogs and cats who are beginning to display dental disease. The food nuggets are specially formulated to scrape build-up from your dogs teeth, and to prevent more plaque from accumulating.
3. Dental enzymes such as DentaTreat have shown good success at keeping plaque from adhering to pets teeth. It will not remove what is already on the teeth, but it will prevent more from building up. The enzyme comes in a powdered form, and can be sprinkled on the pet's food. Most pets seem to enjoy the taste. Plaque-Off is another product we use to help maintain pet teeth health.
4. Dental chews are specially formulated enzyme chews that work similarly to the powdered enzymes.
5. Annual exams are vital to your pets overall health, and the veterinarian will be able to notice dental problems that would never be noticed by an untrained person.
6. Dental cleanings are a common service at our office. We are able to anesthetize your pet, fully clean the teeth, and remove any problem teeth.
7. We recommend that owners pay close attention to their pets teeth, and it is a great idea to take occasional pictures of them to keep track of plaque build-up and gum disease.
8. Many "pet products" exist that may actually harm your dogs teeth. These include tennis balls (wear off enamel), knuckle bones, cooked bones, or old raw bones (these can fracture teeth). Pet toys that are fine for their teeth include: soft plush toys, hard rubber type toys (kongs, etc), hard plastic "interactive" food toys that are somewhat new to the market (you can put their dog food inside and they have to work to get it out). Talk to your vet about good products to use.
What is the Dental Cleaning Procedure?Dental cleanings that are done at our clinic are similar to cleanings humans receive at their dentist. We perform an initial exam to determine the pets overall health, as well as to find out what dental problems need to be addressed (possible extractions that will be needed, gingevitis, etc). The pet is then anesthetized and photos are taken of the teeth. We scrape the plaque from the teeth, check for fractures, bone loss, gum disease, and other issues. We may need to take x-rays if certain teeth appear to have root problems. Extractions are done if needed, the remaining teeth are polished, and a fluoride treatment is applied. We then take another photo once the teeth are clean.
If any teeth are pulled, pain medication is administered and sent home with the owner. We also give an injection of penicillin and may send some home. Additional services may include a pre-surgical bloodscreen. This test is recommended for any pet that has compromised health, or is over 7 years of age. It is not required, but it is highly advisable. This blood test is run prior to anesthetizing your pet, so as to be certain their health is adequate to undergo anesthesia. If the blood test shows very poor results, we may decide to not perform the dental cleaning at least without further discussion with the owner. The following photos show before and after pictures for a dental cleaning: