During your pet’s annual physical exam, a thorough check of her entire body will be performed—including her mouth. As your pet’s owner, you are her health advocate. If you have noticed any dental problems, this is the time to bring them to your veterinarian’s attention. Speak up if you have noticed any of the following:
- Difficulty chewing
- Weight loss
- Excessive salivation
- Pawing at the face and mouth
- Refusal to eat
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Tartar accumulation on the teeth
- Growths inside or around the mouth
- Discolored, broken, or missing teeth
- Bleeding or red gums (gingivitis)
Your veterinarian will check for signs of gingivitis, infection, tartar accumulation, and periodontal disease. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, most dogs and cats have some degree of periodontal disease by age three. If your pet receives this diagnosis, a professional dental cleaning is in order.
What does a dental cleaning include?
The complete dental exam and cleaning will include:
- Evaluation of the entire mouth for abnormalities
- Radiographs (X-rays) to examine tooth structures and bone underneath the gums
- Assessment of gum recession
- Checking for pockets between the teeth and gums, an indication of periodontal disease
- Removal of tartar and calculus accumulation on teeth—both above and below the gum line
- Polishing surfaces of teeth to smooth out the enamel
- Extraction of damaged teeth
- Dental charting to monitor disease progression over time
Anesthesia will be necessary to determine the full extent of disease progression and clean your pet’s teeth. Dogs and cats are unable to remain calm and still enough for a thorough exam, dental radiographs, and cleaning, making anesthesia the most effective method to provide these services for your pet. Although anesthesia may sound scary, our trained veterinary team will monitor your pet throughout the procedure to ensure she is safe.
Why is dental cleaning important for my pet?
Professional treatment for periodontal disease is critical, as it can lead to a myriad of additional problems. As plaque hardens to tartar, it can spread beneath the gums, diminishing the integrity of the tooth root, periodontal ligament, and bone under the gum line. In some pets, progression is severe enough to lead to jaw fractures. Infection from diseased teeth can also enter the bloodstream, resulting in disease of the heart, kidneys, and liver.
What can be done at home to prevent dental disease?
An oral health care routine developed at home can improve the health of your pet while potentially delaying the onset or progression of periodontal disease. While establishing these habits at a young age is ideal, it’s never too late to start! A new routine can be instituted at any time with proper training. Various ways to keep up with your pet’s dental care at home include:
- Tooth brushing — Use a pet-specific toothpaste—human types contain potentially toxic ingredients if swallowed—and small toothbrush or finger brush to clean the exterior surfaces of her teeth daily. When done regularly—at least 3 times a week—brushing removes food particles and plaque that can lead to tartar build-up.
- Dental diets — Large, textured kibble creates a brushing effect on the tooth surface when chewed. The mechanical action of biting into the kibble, partnered with ingredients that help prevent tartar accumulation, make dental diets a useful tool for pets who may not permit their teeth to be brushed. Not all diets that claim to help prevent dental disease are equal—ask a member of our team prior to choosing one for your pet.
- Toys and chews — Choose chew toys that have rough surfaces and grooves that will rub away plaque as your pet chews on them. When shopping for treats and chews, choose those that are included on the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of products that have been proven to prevent plaque and tartar accumulation. Hard items, such as real bones, antlers, and hooves, should never be given, as they can cause tooth fractures and oral trauma.
Questions about your pet’s dental health or products to use at home? Give us a call at 817-599-9971.