Does your dog or cat have bad breath? Are they not eating their regular food as well as they used to? Are they salivating more than usual? These can all be signs of dental disease in varying forms and a large percentage of patients with oral pain show no obvious signs at all! The mouth is a very important feature when it comes to the overall health of any animal, as it is in humans! Believe it or not, dogs and cats (and many other species) often need yearly dental cleanings and daily oral care to keep their mouths healthy.
What is periodontal disease?
Oral disease in our patients is caused by the same thing as it is in humans. It is an infection caused by the buildup of plaque on the surfaces of the teeth and gums. Plaque contains bacteria (hence the bad breath) and the bacteria starts by irritating the tissues of the gums. With time, this can lead to infection within the roots of teeth, around the teeth, and even in the bones of the upper and lower jaws! Even mild gum inflammation can be painful, so with progression, the pain only gets worse. Once plaque and hard dental tartar accumulate on the teeth, they are virtually impossible to remove without an anesthetized dental cleaning. There is blood supply to the roots of the teeth and when bacteria from plaque are released into the blood stream due to dental disease, the patient can become systemically ill. Research has proven that chronic bacteria in the blood stream from dental disease can lead to damage of the kidneys, liver, heart and musculature.
The key to managing this condition is prevention (both in pets and humans!) With daily brushing of the oral cavity, regular dental cleanings (as recommended by your veterinarian) and other management tools, such as OraVet Chews ®, the gums and thus teeth, will stay much healthier.
What to expect:
Only a very small percentage of dental disease can be assessed in the awake patient. Often, the degree of dental disease is determined to be more advanced once a thorough oral assessment has taken place with the animal under anesthesia. Just because your pet’s teeth look “clean” doesn’t mean they are healthy, as roughly 50% of the tooth’s surface is below the gum line. Additionally, the “wiggly” patient factor always comes into play when assessing the patient in an examination room. We recommend a dental consultation for further expectations and client questions to be discussed prior to the procedure. We are also looking to incorporate dental x-rays into our practice. This will allow us to assess the portions of the teeth under the gum line and provide an increased level of care and treatment for our patients!
At this time we are currently performing routine dental cleanings (scale, polish, fluoride) and simple tooth extractions. Referral to a board certified veterinary dentist is often the best option for advanced surgical extractions and dental procedures. We do not recommend veterinary dental cleanings without the use of anesthesia, as a thorough assessment and treatment of the teeth cannot be performed. If you have more questions about anesthesia and risks, contact us!
We encourage you to visit www.vohc.org (veterinary oral health council) for a list of approved products for dogs and cats and more information dental disease in small animal patients. It’s always important to make sure that your pet is directly supervised when chewing on any product, as some pets digestive systems may not tolerate all treats or chews.