The Importance of Dental Care
Poor dental health is one of the most common problems facing dogs and cats. It is estimated that as many as 85% of dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease by four years of age. The problems associated with dental disease can range from relatively minor problems such as bad breath, to loss of teath and bone, and even to life-threatening conditions such as kidney failure and heart disease.
We understand that good dental care is essential to maintaining your pet's overall health. This can only be accomplished through a regimen of regular preventive care, such as brushing, dental chews, or a dental diet, along with regular cleanings. Just as we humans need annual dental cleaning, it is important that our pets' mouths be regularly examined for hidden problems. Remember, they can't tell us when something hurts!
Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Dentistry
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Accumulation of tartar and calculus on the teeth causes gum recession around the base of the tooth. Infection soon follows and the gums recede further, exposing sensitive unprotected tooth root surfaces and the bony tooth sockets. Left untreated, the infection spreads deep into the tooth socket, destroying the bone. Ultimately, the tooth loosens and falls out. Advanced periodontal disease can lead to other serious health problems, including infections of the throat, heart, kidneys, and liver.
What is involved in a routine dental cleaning?
A routine dental cleaning involves a thorough dental examination, along with a dental scaling and polishing to remove the tartar and invisible plaque from all of the tooth surfaces. We will perform pre-anesthetic blood tests to ensure that kidney and liver function are satisfactory for anesthesia. Sometimes antibiotic treatment is started before the periodontal therapy is performed. Your pet's doctor will discuss the specific pre-dental recommendations for your pet.
Once your pet is anesthetized, tooth scaling will be performed using both traditional hand scalers and ultrasonic cleaning equipment to remove all traces of tartar, both above and below the gum line. The tartar below the gum line causes the most significant gum recession and it is extremely important that it is removed thoroughly. After scaling, full mouth x-rays are taken, which will help the doctor in determining the extent of any problems below the gum line. Next, the doctor will thoroughly examine the mouth for abnormalities such as periodontal pockets, fractures, or resorptive lesions. The teeth are then polished to remove microscopic scratches in order to help prevent subsequent plaque build-up. Special applications such as fluoride, antibiotic preparations and cleaning compounds may be indicated to decrease tooth sensitivity, strengthen enamel, treat bacterial infection and reduce future plaque accumulation.
The procedures that your pet may require will be discussed with you before scheduling the dental cleaning. Since it can be difficult to predict the extent of dental disease in advance of the procedure, it is imperative that we be able to reach you during the procedure to discuss any additional treatment that may be necessary.
What if extractions are necessary?
If the doctor determines that one or more teeth need to be extracted, we will perform this after the cleaning. Additional pain medications will be given to your pet prior to the extractions, and the resulting pockets will be filled and sutured. Extractions are not something anyone looks forward to, but when indicated they can greatly improve your pet's quality of life.
What about anesthetic safety and pain?
Pain management and patient safety are top priorities with us. Our dental procedures are performed under the same
anesthetic and pain management protocols that we use for surgery. These are
designed and proven to increase safety, improve recovery time, and minimize pain during and after the
Can we do the dental procedure without the use of anesthesia?
The practice of veterinary dentistry without the use of anesthetics is not endorsed by the vast majority of veterinary practitioners, for a number of reasons. Most important, it is not possible to fully examine your pet's teeth without sedation, since 70% of the tooth is below the gum line. This is where most problems occur. It is also impossible to fully clean the teeth with the patient conscious, since they will not tolerate the use of instruments on the gums. Finally, non-anesthetic dentistry can be dangerous for your pet and our staff, since the patient has to be physically restrained during the procedure.