Written by Tricia H.
85% of adult pets have dental disease. If left untreated, dental disease can lead to pain, tooth loss and chronic infection for the pet. As dental disease continuously progresses, it can lead to more serious health issues including damage of the heart, liver and kidneys. February is known nationally as Pet Dental Month. Because we are so busy here at TLC Animal Hospital, we extend Pet Dental Month from January – March. To celebrate, we do try to educate pet owners on the awareness of dental disease and also offer a 10% off discount for all dentals.
A dental, also called a prophylaxis, is a cleaning and polishing of the teeth. Your pet’s teeth should be examined and cleaned with redness around the gums appears (gingivitis) or if brushing your pets teeth causes bleeding. Gingivitis left untreated can progress plaque in your pet’s mouth to mineralize into tartar. What does tartar do? Tartar blocks healthy oxygen from bathing the tooth and allows bacteria to thrive. This causes harm to the bone and tissues of the gum. Eventually, the bone around the tooth is eaten away and the gums become sensitive to destruction. “Perio” means around, “dontal” means tooth: Periodontal disease is disease around the outside of the tooth.
Signs your pet is suffering from periodontal disease:
- Bad breath: this is the leading sign that there is an infection
- Tooth loss
- Subdued behavior (irritable or depressed)
- Abnormal drooling
- Dropping food from the mouth
- Swallowing food whole
- Red, inflamed, bleeding gums
- Going to food bowl, but not eating
- Any change in chewing or eating habits
- Mouth sensitivity
- Pawing at the mouth
- Stomach or other digestive problems
A professional cleaning performed at TLC Animal Hospital requires the following steps:
- General exam before anesthesia
- Pre-operative blood work to ensure your pet is healthy enough to go under anesthesia
- Pre-operative ECG to ensure your pet’s heart is healthy enough to withstand anesthesia
- Pre-operative antibiotic injection
- Preemptive pain management
- General anesthesia
- Oral exam under anesthesia – probe and explore
- IV catheter and fluids to keep your pet hydrated and to keep blood pressure stable throughout the procedure
- Anesthesia monitoring throughout the procedure
- Oral rinse with a chlorhexidine solution
- Removal of plaque and tartar above the gumline
- Removal of plaque and tartar below the gumline
- Complete dental charting
- Dental x-rays if needed
- Oral Surgery if needed
- Treatment Plan
- Anesthetic recovery
- Home care
- Follow up
Diet alone will not control plaque but it will help. Hard food will help remove plaque from teeth. There are special dental diets specifically manufactured to help control plaque. Using the special diet in conjunction with daily brushing is the best way to keep the teeth clean.
Teeth Brushing – Nothing beats brushing. Special canine and feline toothbrushes conform to a pet’s mouth and allow the fibers of the brush to reach between teeth and under gums to pick out tiny deposits of food. Use only pet specific toothpaste, never human toothpaste. Please feel free to ask for a brushing demonstration if needed!
Oral Rinse/Spray – Some animals will not tolerate brushing but are more amenable to an oral rinse or spray. Nolvadent ® Oral Cleansing Solution is an oral rinse for use on dogs and cats containing an antiseptic to help maintain oral health and fresh breath.
Dental Chews – TLC Animal Hospital recommends Dentahex Oral Care Chews. These chews combine an antiseptic with abrasive action and are made with Digest-EEZE® for easier and faster digestibility. They are available in petite, small, medium and large sizes.
F.A.Q About Pet Dentals:
Why do you have to use anesthesia to clean my pet’s teeth?
Your pet needs to be under general anesthesia for a dental procedure for several reasons. A complete examination and cleaning of all teeth cannot be performed efficiently and safely if your pet is awake. Dental radiographs may be necessary for evaluation of dental disease and are impossible to perform on a pet that is awake. An endotracheal tube is placed to protect the trachea and lungs from bacterial contamination as well as to maintain an open airway. Any necessary tooth extractions definitely require an anesthetized patient. We take every effort to ensure your pet’s safety during an anesthetic procedure. We use the safest of anesthetic agents and require a pre-anesthetic work-up to qualify them for anesthesia. All animals are monitored while anesthetized both visibly and with similar monitoring devices as used in human hospitals.
Can I just take my fingernail or dental scaler to remove the calculus?
Dental disease occurs below the gumline. By removing tartar from the tooth, you are not removing disease below the gumline. For a thorough and complete cleaning, plaque and tartar must be removed from below the gumline during a dental cleaning.
How long does the dental procedure take?
The length of the actual dental procedure can vary greatly. We ask that you drop your pet off early in the morning to allow for blood work, ECG, catheter placement and IV fluids. We will call you after the procedure is complete and your pet is awake to give you a specific pick up time. Pets usually go home in the late afternoon after they are awake, alert and have received the necessary amount of IV fluid therapy.
When do I have to start worrying about dental problems with my pet?
As soon as puppy or kitten teeth emerge, it is time to start brushing. Although baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth, starting sooner than later will help the pet get used to the brushing procedure which continues for life.
How often does my pet need to have teeth cleaned by the vet?
It depends on the degree of plaque and tartar accumulation. Examine your pet’s teeth on a monthly basis. Look for an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gumline especially over the cheek teeth and canines. The intervals between teeth cleaning procedures will also depend on how often you can brush your pet’s teeth.
Why should I brush my pet’s teeth?
Daily removal of plaque is the key to an oral hygiene program. Unless your pet’s teeth are brushed daily, plaque, which is an accumulation of bacteria, will build up at the gumline. Eventually calculus forms, further irritating the gums, and then infection progresses to loosen and destroy the attachment of the tooth. In addition to loose teeth, infection under the gumline can spread to the liver, kidneys, and heart.
How much does a dental cleaning procedure cost?
It is impossible to determine what the procedure will cost until we know the status of your pet’s teeth and gums. Fees are based on severity plus costs for preoperative testing, anesthesia, necessary therapy, and medication. The doctor or staff will provide an initial treatment plan and estimate based on exam room findings.
What toys should I avoid to protect my pet’s teeth?
Chewing on objects harder than teeth may lead to dental fractures. Be especially careful with cow and horse hoofs. They commonly cause fractures of the upper fourth premolars. Tug-of-war games, especially in young dogs and cats, should be avoided to prevent moving growing teeth to abnormal locations.
What can you do to fix a broken tooth?
If your dog or cat breaks a tooth, there are two treatments: root canal therapy with a specialist or extraction. You cannot leave the tooth alone with an exposed nerve. In addition to pain, infection will soon develop that can spread to the rest of your pet’s body.
What are cat cavities?
Many cats get painful lesions at the gum line, which invade teeth. They are properly referred to as Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions (FORLS). Unfortunately we do not know what causes FORLS, and the most effective treatment involves extraction of the affected tooth pending dental x-rays.
Here are some before and after photos of some patients we have worked on: