One of the most important parts of your pet’s overall well-being is good dental health. Did you know that 80% of dogs and cats over the age of six have dental disease? Dental disease is not “normal” in pets, though it is extremely common. Dental tarter, bad breath and bleeding gums indicate a dental infection in animals, and animals with periodontal disease are uncomfortable, even though they may show no obvious signs of pain. At Oceanside Animal Hospital we take great pride in caring for our patients with dental disease.
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When Should My Pet Have a Dental Cleaning?
Definitely when visible tartar is present on teeth, or your pet’s gums are red or bleeding during chewing, a dental appointment should be scheduled. Brushing the teeth when tartar and dental disease is already present will not help and in fact is often painful. Studies now show that dental cleanings should be performed starting at 1-2 years of age – before tartar is present! With routine oral assessments and cleanings, the life expectancy of your pet can be increased by about two years!
My Pet Still Eats Well Even Though The Teeth Look Bad – Is He/She In Pain?
Animals have a very strong natural instinct to hide pain. By the time they stop eating, the pain is more severe than the will to survive and eat. Normal eating is not a reliable indicator of pain.
Why Does My Pet Have Dental Disease?
We brush our teeth at least twice daily and we still have to see our dentist regularly to have our teeth professionally cleaned. Pets acquire dental disease over time the same as we do, particularly if their teeth are not brushed. Plaque bacteria accumulates beneath the gumline and causes inflammation of the gum tissue (gingivitis). If left unchecked, this inflammation will continue and start to destroy the gum tissue and the bone. Some breeds of dogs are particularly prone to developing dental disease, particularly the toy breeds and brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds such as pugs and boxers.
Is a General Anesthetic Required For a Dental Procedure?
A general anesthetic is required for a dental cleaning and oral health assessment, because unlike us our pets can not be expected to stay in one place with their mouths open for a prolonged period of time while we use loud dental instruments such as ultrasonic scalers and polishers on all the surfaces of their teeth, and take dental radiographs. Some companies are offering anesthesia free dental cleanings but these are purely cosmetic - the tarter is scraped off the visible surfaces of the teeth. However there is absolutely no way to clean beneath the gumline (where plaque bacteria lives) on an awake animal. To try to do so would be ineffective and also risk injury to the gums and enamel with sharp instruments. This means that the source of pain and infection in your pet's mouth is not addressed and periodontal disease will progress, destroying the gum tissue and bone associated with the teeth.
Is My Pet “Too Old” For a Dental Procedure?
Age is not a disease, and pets are never too old to have their pain and infection treated. Our anesthetic protocol is designed to be as safe as possible in our geriatric patients. Many clients state a major change in their pet’s behaviour after their dental disease is treated and they are no longer in discomfort.
What Does a Dental Procedure Involve?
When your pet arrives at the clinic in the morning, he will first have a physical exam and blood work if the veterinarian has indicated that this is necessary. Some sedation will be given and then an intravenous catheter will be placed, and your pet will be placed under anesthesia. Your pet’s heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood pressure will be monitored closely by a veterinary technician throughout the procedure. Your pet will be on IV fluids throughout the procedure in order to help maintain his or her blood pressure.
The first step in a dental procedure is examining all of the teeth thoroughly and evaluating each tooth for health. All of the teeth will be cleaned and polished. Full mouth dental x-rays will be taken. These are necessary to evaluate the teeth below the gum line as well as the enamel of the teeth. Every effort is made to save the teeth in your pet, however if a tooth is unhealthy and cannot be saved, it will be surgically extracted.
Our practice has invested in dental x-ray equipment, high speed dental equipment, and anesthetic monitoring equipment to ensure that your pet gets the best possible dental care.
How Will My Pet Eat If Several Teeth Are Extracted?
In many cases, once the diseased teeth are removed the pet actually eats better because the pain and infection are gone.
How Do I Prevent Dental Disease In My Pet?
Brushing the teeth every day and having regular dental cleanings done by your veterinarian will prevent major oral surgery. Using dental diets, chews, sprays etc can help as well, though they do not help as much as brushing. Feeding hard food or treats does not prevent dental disease.