DENTAL HEALTH IN PETS
The dental problems your pet faces are different from many dental issues in people. Periodontal, or dental disease, is a common finding in dogs and cats. It is estimated that 65-85% of all dogs and cats over the age of 3-years have some type of periodontal disease. In humans, most dental diseases are caused by tooth decay, whereas in pets, the problems are caused by periodontal disease. Similar to people though, some dogs and cats are more susceptible to dental disease than others. Small breed dogs, Greyhounds, and senior pets are more predisposed to having problems with their teeth.
Periodontal disease in our animal friends begins with the formation of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is an accumulation of bacteria, saliva, and food debris near the gum line and in-between the teeth. If the plaque stays on the teeth, it will continue to buildup and mineralize to form tartar. As tartar accumulates on the teeth, the gums become infected with oral bacteria, creating inflammation above and below the gum line. The combination of infection and gum inflammation cause the gums to pull away from the tooth roots. This gum recession allows the infection to spread into the support structures and roots of the teeth.
SIGNS OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE
There are several signs that your pet may need to be examined for dental disease. One of the first signs is persistent bad breath. Other indications of oral disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums. Pain in the mouth manifested as a reluctance to chew, dropping food, teeth chattering, and unwillingness to play with objects using the mouth. As very few pets show any indication of dental disease until severe problems develop, an annual veterinary examination can help detect oral disease sooner. Besides the oral discomfort caused by tooth and gum disease, there are other serious consequences to neglecting periodontal disease in pets. The buildup of infection in the oral cavity can be circulated to the rest of the body when your pet chews on food. The most common organs affected by the traveling bacteria are the kidneys, liver, and heart.
Removing plaque before it's hardened or mineralized on the teeth is the goal of a good preventive program. Once plaque has mineralized into tartar, it must be removed by a veterinarian. Treatment for periodontal disease involves a full examination and a thorough teeth cleaning by a veterinarian. While your pet is awake, only a limited exam is possible. The teeth cleaning process, using a combination of ultrasonic equipment and dental tools, is accomplished under sedation and not general anesthesia. A "sedative" is like a strong tranquilizer. The unique feature of the sedative we use is that we can reverse its effects by using a reversal medication. The ability to reverse the sedative is what makes our dental procedures a much safer process than if we were to use general anesthesia. If dental surgery is required, we use the anesthetic Isoflurane because of its superior quality and tremendous efficacy compared to other commonly used veterinary inhalant anesthetics. Before awaking from sedation, our team polishes the teeth to remove any crevices in the teeth caused by the removal of tartar and calculus. Once your pet's teeth are cleaned, your pet will have a complete oral examination done, including a thorough visual observation of all teeth and gums, the tonsils, the throat, and the tongue. Medications may be prescribed before or after dental procedures to treat any infection and provide pain relief.
Maintaining oral health after a dental cleaning is paramount for the long-term oral health and to prevent recurrence of periodontal disease. To maintain a healthy oral cavity in pets, begin with toothbrushing. Daily brushing is best, but 3-4 times per week should be the minimum. Be sure to use products that are designed for dogs and cats. Do not use toothpaste designed for people, as it can be toxic when swallowed. Another way to help maintain your pet's oral health is by feeding them a dry kibble diet. The mechanical chewing helps prevent some plaque accumulation. If your pet has moderate to severe dental disease, dental chews or a specialized diet may be prescribed specifically to prevent dental disease. Our clinic offers a prescription diet, Hill's TD, that can be fed as a daily maintenance diet or as a treat. Also, we offer a dental product called Periosupport that can be sprinkled on the food of dogs and cats. Periosupport is a combination of probiotics, good bacteria, and enzymes that are commonly found in the oral cavity. This powder helps to keep the oral cavity healthy, which greatly reduces halitosis, also commonly known as bad breath. Chew toys can also be an easy and helpful way to remove tartar from the teeth.