It is estimated that 90% of dogs and cats over the age of 2 have some form of dental disease, and of that 90%, 50% require immediate attention.
Dental disease starts when plaque forms on the teeth. If not removed this develops into dental calculus commonly known as tartar. This in turn changes the pH of the mouth allowing bacteria to survive under the gum line. The by-products of these bacteria ‘eat away’ at the gums and tooth support structures, including the ligaments and bone.
So why do we care about dental disease in our pets?
If left untreated, dental disease causes:
- Chronic pain. Most animals show few obvious signs of pain, yet suffer from discomfort, toothaches and chronic oral pain.
- Localized infections. Dental disease can cause tooth root abscesses and inflamed, swollen gums.
- Internal organ disease. Bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream and become widely distributed throughout the body; in particular the heart, kidneys, lungs and joints.
What can I do
Start with having your pet examined to stage the dental disease. Then, our veterinarians will decide on an appropriate treatment plan for the individual pet.
Home dental care
Regular home care should be started at approximately 6 months of age. Depending on the size of your pet, an infant, child or adult soft toothbrush can be used. Use toothpaste formulated for pets that is safe to swallow. We carry a variety of flavors at the hospital. Try to make brushing an enjoyable experience and praise your pet for letting you brush his or her teeth.
Veterinary Dental Treatments
This includes a comprehensive oral examination and assessment of each tooth. Teeth will be treated with a full cleaning of the crown of each tooth as well as a thorough cleaning below the gum line, all done with an ultrasonic scaler. Next, a polish is applied to remove microscopic scratches and make the surface more resistant to plaque build up. If required oral surgery will be performed and decayed teeth will be surgically extracted thus removing the pain and source of infection. Dental x-rays are often performed to view the crown, tooth roots and supporting structures. Radiographs are an important part of dental assessments because they help identify the severity of periodontal disease and the health of each individual tooth, thus aiding in the treatment plan.
General anesthetic is required. It is not possible to do a thorough and proper dental exam and treatment while the patient is awake. It is not possible to examine all teeth surfaces, or examine below the gum line or take x-rays. Ultrasonic scalers cannot be used in an awake animal as they produce sound, vibrations and eject water that ‘tickle’ the gingiva. Any attempts of a dental cleaning by non-veterinary individuals with improper choice of instruments will lead to scarring and micro-pitting of the enamel, thus damaging the tooth. This will cause plaque and tartar development to occur more rapidly and progress to further dental disease.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s dental health status please call us to book an appointment with one of our veterinarians.