Dental Care: Make It a Regular Part of Your Pet’s Life
While Middlesex County Animal Hospital and most other veterinary facilities around the country tout February as “Dental Health Month”, we need to make owners aware that year round care for their pets’ teeth is very important. Most of us care for our teeth at least twice a day and yet most pet’s teeth are rarely cared for or inspected. By the time we realize that a pet has dental disease it is in an advanced state requiring long, expensive tartar scaling and tooth extractions procedures.
THE FIRST STEP
Depending on the tartar accumulation and condition of your pet’s teeth and gums, you may be able to just start home care or a professional cleaning may be needed to get the teeth back to square one. A thorough dental exam by a veterinarian or dental veterinary technician to assess the degree of dental disease is the best place to start. Small breed dogs, certain breeds of cats, and older pets are more likely to have significant dental disease and in need of a professional cleaning. Young pets less than a year old likely have little to no tartar accumulation and these pets would benefit from starting oral home care.
DOES MY PET HAVE DENTAL DISEASE?
Most pets start to develop some degree of dental disease after about 2-3 years of age although some even younger pets can develop problems. The first noticeable signs of dental disease are typically a small buildup of yellow or brown material (called calculus or tartar) and red, swollen gums. If this early dental disease goes unchecked, gums will begin to recede causing tooth root exposure and a loss of tooth attachment. Eventually when enough of the tooth attachment is lost, the tooth can no longer be saved and extraction is necessary.
SIGNS OF ADVANCED DENTAL DISEASE
In the early stages of dental disease you will not notice any changes in your pet’s eating habits, breath, or behavior but these symptoms can be an indication of serious dental issues.
- Bad Breath
- Yellow or Brown Deposits on Teeth
- Bleeding Gums
- Changing Chewing Habits
- Poor Appetite
- Swelling Along Jaw
- Lost Teeth
- Excessive Drooling
- Change in Behavior
WHAT STEPS ARE INVOLVED IN A DENTAL PROCEDURE
- Initially an exam is performed on your pet to assess not only the teeth and gums but your pet’s overall health. This step is very important as the procedure involves general anesthesia.
- Blood work will be performed before the procedure to further assess to condition of the kidneys, liver, and other systems to handle anesthesia.
- Your pet is then placed under general anesthesia and intravenous fluids are started. While under anesthesia monitors assess your pet’s heart rhythm, pulse rate, and breathing. Bair Hugger™ warming devices are used to keep their body temperature normal throughout the procedure.
- Ultrasonic scaling is performed on all the teeth to remove any tartar from above and below the gum line.
- All teeth are inspected for any large pockets in the gums that may indicate loss of tooth attachment and dental radiographs are taken if necessary.
- All teeth are polished with a fluoride treatment.
- A dental sealant called OraVet™ is applied to all tooth surfaces to prevent plaque and subsequent tartar formation.
- Your pet recovers from anesthesia under the watchful eye of our ICU nurse and is given the necessary pain medications or antibiotics in cases where tooth extractions are necessary.
- Your pet comes home the same day with their new healthy mouth.
- Two weeks after you pet’s dental procedure one of our dental technicians we see them for an appointment to look at the teeth and discuss options for at home dental care.
OPTIONS FOR AT HOME DENTAL CARE
- Dental Diets: A number of different companies have developed food that minimized tartar formation.
- Dental Treats: Both edible treats and play toys designed to remove plaque from your pet’s teeth.
- Brushing: Some pets are very tolerant of having their teeth brushed. Even twice a week makes all the difference in the world.
- Oral Washes and Gels: Contain antibacterial solutions to help decrease plaque formation.
- OraVet™ Dental Sealant: Similar to the sealant we use during dental procedures. Very affordable and only needs to be applied once a week.
- Tip: Start gradually with brushing or other preventative measures. Do not use human toothpaste.