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Small Animal Dentistry
Canine and feline dental health is an often overlooked, but very important part of a pet's general wellbeing. Nearly 70-80% of cats and dogs show signs of oral disease by the age of three, according to a recent American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) study. That makes it the most common disease in small animal practice! Pets that receive proper routine dental care typically live longer and healthier lives. Oral disease not only causes halitosis (bad breath), but can be very painful and lead to tooth loss. And it doesn't just affect the mouth. Chronic oral infections constantly release low levels of bacteria into the bloodstream, which can lead to liver, kidney and heart problems. This can exacerbate already existing health problems.
Progression of Periodontal Disease:
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth. In the early stages, a bacterial film called plague attaches to the teeth. Plaque is initially soft and easily dislodged by brushing or chewing food and toys. If left to spread, it can lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) causing them to become red and swollen. The early stages of periodontal disease are characterized by mild to moderate gingivitis. At this point, the gingivitis can be reversed through routine teeth cleaning under anesthesia. In many cases, the appearance of the gums can return to normal.
When the bacteria in the plaque dies, they become calcified and form a hard, rough substance called tartar or calculus. Tartar cannot be simply brushed off and it provides more surfaces for plaque to attach, leading to further gingivitis and gum recession. Infections can form around the tooth roots. In the advanced stages of periodontal disease, the tissues around the teeth are destroyed and there is bone loss, resulting in resorptive lesions and loose teeth. This can be very painful for your pet and requires more than routine care to correct.
There are three major components to proper oral care for our cats and dogs: regular oral examinations by our veterinarians, dental cleanings under general anesthesia and at-home dental care. Beginning at the puppy or kitten stage, our veterinarians will examine your pet's mouth for any signs of developmental abnormalities, missing or extra teeth, malocclusions or other abnormalities. As your pet ages, our veterinarians will monitor for the accumulation of plaque and tartar, the progression of any periodontal disease, missing or fractured teeth or oral tumors. Our veterinarians can make recommendations for treatment based on your pet's dental health.
We may recommend dental cleaning under general anesthesia for your pet if they show signs of dental disease. Unlike people, our pets will not sit still for any kind of dental work, so general anesthesia is necessary for proper examination and cleaning of their teeth. We recommend all pets receive a pre-anesthetic examination including bloodwork to ensure they are healthy enough to handle the anesthesia. While under anesthesia, your pet's mouth can be thoroughly examined for signs of dental disease including gum recession, missing or fractured teeth, resorptive lesions and loose teeth. We use similar instruments as human dentists to remove plaque and calculus from your pet's teeth. And just like with your own dentist, we also recommend dental radiographs (x-rays) to evaluate the health of your pet's teeth. Digital x-rays allow us to see any disease under the surface and appropriately decide on the best treatment. Any diseased or loose teeth can be extracted during the dental procedure. The teeth are also cleaned and polished. If there are any signs of infection, your pet will be sent home on antibiotics following the dental cleaning.
Home dental care plays a significant role in ensuring your pet's continued dental health. The gold standard of home care is daily brushing with a special pet toothpaste and toothbrush. Human toothpaste can upset your pet's stomach. The toothpaste we carry is flavored (beef or poultry) and contains several enzymes that help break down plaque. We can show you how to brush your pet's teeth or you can visit this article by the AAHA on brushing your pet's teeth. Other components of home care include special oral care diets, chews and treats. We carry several oral care diets (such as Hill's T/D) specifically designed to help maintain your pet's dental health. For a complete list of products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council that aid in retarding plaque and tartar, click here.