Approximately 70% of pets over the age of four have some degree of dental disease. Dental care is an important but often overlooked aspect of pet care. Routine dental care at home can help preserve your pet’s dental health for years. When it does come time for a professional cleaning, our hospital is well equipped to provide the thorough care he needs.
Our digital dental radiology unit allows us to detect disease conditions below the gum line that would otherwise go undetected. Routine cleanings at the early stages of dental disease will help keep your pet healthy.
The Truth About Teeth
Along with obesity, dental disease ranks among the most common and least recognized conditions of pets. Your pets’ teeth need regular care just as do our own. Dental care can be divided into two categories, home care and professional care.
A healthy mouth starts at home. Feeding your pet a high-quality diet, consisting primarily of dry food will help keep the teeth healthy. Dry food has a natural abrasive cleaning function when your pet chews it that helps reduce plaque and tartar build up. In addition to this, your pet should receive some sort of supplementary dental care several times a week. The nature of this will vary with the pet’s willingness and the owner’s ability to be involved. For the busy owner and those pets who are not amenable to having their teeth brushed, there are a number of dental chews available that help prevent dental disease. We recommend CET chews, Greenies and rawhides. These chews should be given at least three times weekly. Avoid hard items such as bones, Nyla-Bones and Hooves as these frequently result in fractures of the large premolars and may necessitate either a root canal or extraction.
For those owners able and willing to do so, brushing your pet’s teeth several times weekly is you best bet at preventing dental disease. We recommend the CET dental kits. They provide palatable enzymatic toothpaste designed to be well accepted by you pet and to help break down plaque and tartar as well as fight bacteria. Again, You should try to brush your pet’s teeth at least 2-3 times weekly. The best way to start is a gradual introduction of the process working first on the most accessible teeth and rewarding your pet for cooperating. Play your cards right and you pet will really look forward to a dental brushing!
The last aspect of home dental care is to learn to recognize when there is a problem. Common signs of dental disease in pets include bad breath, inflamed gums, diminished appetite or difficulty chewing. These symptoms, while common o dental disease, can also be present in many other conditions, so if you notice any of them, it is time for a general check up!
Professional Dental Care:
Assuming that you have followed the above recommendations, your pet will likely need only occasional dental cleanings. As long as your pet’s gums appear healthy and there is minimal plaque or tartar build up, home care is all that is needed. As with humans, dental disease in pets follows an orderly and predictable pattern. Plaque and tartar build up are followed by gingivitis (infection of the gums due to bacteria build up under the gum line) and then periodontal disease. With periodontal disease, the bacteria under the gum line start to damage the bone around the teeth and the ligaments that fasten the teeth to the bone. It is vital to prevent this for several reasons:
First, periodontal infections serve as a source of chronic bacterial infection for other organs in the body. While the immune system is very effective at preventing most bacterial infections from running wild, it is not perfect so sooner or later a pet with badly infected teeth will develop other problems such as bacterial bronchitis, kidney infections and infections of heart valves infections (endocarditis). There are numerous studies indicating that patients with poor dental health have a much higher incidence of other health problems.
Unlike periodontal disease in people, it is very difficult to manage this problem in pets. People with periodontal disease are often treated surgically and are instructed to lavage the areas after each meal to prevent bacteria and debris from returning to the pocket. This is simply not practical in pets so when there is significant periodontal disease present, the best treatment option is to extract the effected tooth. Leaving the tooth in place simply allows bacteria to recolonize the lesion within a very short time and you have essentially the same problem with which you started before the cleaning.
Your pet’s teeth are evaluated each time he is examined. We will recommend a dental cleaning when we see evidence of significant gingivitis or heavy plaque or tartar build up.