Dental Care and Prevention

Pet Dental Care for Healthier Dogs & Cats

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease is a serious condition that starts out as a bacterial film, called plaque, which attaches to the teeth. Plaque appears as a white to gray soft material at the gingival margin and may be seen on the teeth prior to the development of gingivitis. If not removed through regular brushing, plaque spreads below the gum line, leading to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and tooth root infections. The bacteria associated with oral disease can spread through your pet’s bloodstream and cause damage to other organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.

The first noticeable sign that a pet needs periodontal treatment is halitosis, bad breath/ noticeably unpleasant odor. Periodontal treatment includes scaling, curettage, root planning, polishing, sulcus irrigation, fluoride treatment, and may even involve some extractions. Calculated guesses can be made on the exam table, however, periodontal disease cannot be fully realized until the pet is evaluated under anesthesia.

After anesthetizing the pet, complete oral and periodontal examinations can be performed, and the teeth can be charted. Some of the more obvious findings are dental calculus or tartar on the teeth, red or bleeding gums, oral ulcers, retained deciduous teeth, loose teeth, missing teeth or broken teeth. Dental radiographs are utilized for periodontal assessment, treatment planning and evaluation.

Professional Teeth Cleaning for Your Dog or Cat

Unlike human patients, we cannot ask our canine and feline companions to sit still and open wide during their professional dental cleaning. That is why we utilize the safest anesthetics available to keep your pet comfortably asleep during the procedure. Without anesthesia, there is no way to properly clean, scale, and polish your pet’s teeth and gums. The good news is that your veterinarian can remove years of plaque and tarter build up and, if necessary, extract broken or infected teeth that would have caused your critter pain and other problems down the road.

Treatment depends on the severity of the disease and the condition of the individual patient. Pets undergoing dental prophylaxis are sedated for their safety and wellbeing. Prior to sedation, blood work is generally recommended and some patients will receive antibiotics.

Pre-Anesthetic Exam

  • Whenever anesthesia is needed, special considerations are taken to help ensure the safety of your pet. Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your pet to make sure they are healthy enough to undergo anesthesia.
  • Depending on your pet’s age and general physical condition, your veterinarian may also run blood, urine, and x-ray tests to check for any dangerous heart, kidney, or other conditions.
  • Though there is some risk associated with any medical procedure, modern anesthesia is usually safe, even for older pets.

Anesthesia Monitoring

During anesthesia, the monitoring and recording of your pet’s vital signs (such as body temperature, heart rate, and respiration, as well as other important factors) is important. This helps ensure the safety of your pet while undergoing anesthesia.

Scaling & Polishing

  • We use modern and safe ultrasound to clean each tooth thoroughly, above and below the gum line. The most important area to clean is just below the gum line where plaque and tartar can do the most damage and can result in periodontal disease. This cannot be properly done without general anesthesia.
  • To smooth out any scratches in the tooth enamel after scaling, polishing with a special paste is also recommended.

Dental Radiographs

  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the teeth are essential to completely evaluate your pet’s oral health. Since 70% of the tooth is hidden below the gum line, x-rays aid the veterinarian greatly in detecting abnormalities that cannot be detected under examination alone.
  • X-rays can confirm tooth abnormalities, disease, damage and infection below the gum line that may require extraction.

Fluoride and Sealants

  • The application of an anti-plaque substance, such as a fluoride treatment and/or a barrier sealant is also advised. This can help strengthen and desensitize teeth as well as decrease future plaque.
  • Fluoride treatments help strengthen enamel and reduce tooth sensitivity.

Indicators of Dental Disease in Pets

  • Broken teeth or bleeding teeth
  • Red or pink spot on tooth at the gum line
  • Wincing or chattering of teeth when area around mouth is touched
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tartar and calculus (yellow-brown discoloration on the tooth)
  • Bad breath/Oral odor (dogs and cats should not have bad breath)
  • Difficultly chewing food/Difficulty eating/Chewing on one side
  • Uncomfortable eating or preference for canned over dry food
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Painful when chewing food or mouth is handled
  • Excessive drooling/Increased drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Gingivitis (red, swollen, inflamed or bleeding gums)
  • Many cats will have no outward signs since they are adapt at hiding pain and the painful tooth has become their “baseline”

If you notice any of the above signs, contact us to schedule a dental exam.