Signs your pet needs dental care:
Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s oral health as part of the yearly physical exam. Depending on the level of dental disease, they may recommend a dental prophylaxis (cleaning and preventative care). Dental cleanings are an anesthetic procedure that require a day-long stay here at the clinic. The actual cleaning procedure includes:
- Ultrasonic scaling
- Assessment of the gum condition
- Full mouth radiographs
- Extractions (if required)
Just like humans, pets can develop tartar and plaque, which act as highways for bacteria into the gums. This can eventually lead to gingivitis. Once disease has set in, a dental cleaning is often warranted. Although dental chew toys and other over the counter products are available, the most effective way to clean the tartar, plaque, and treat the gingivitis is through a dental cleaning.
There are many ways to check and see if your pet may be having dental issues, but there are also signs that may not be as visible. This is why veterinarians recommend having your pet’s teeth checked annually. Here are some things to keep an eye (or nose) out for:
Broken, loose, or missing teeth
Discoloration or tartar build up
Excessive chewing or drooling
Reduced appetite or inability to chew
Swelling and bleeding in or around the mouth
Common Pet Dental Care Questions
STEP 1: FULL MOUTH RADIOGRAPHS
Taking full mouth radiographs (dental x-rays) show problems hiding under the surface. They show tooth root health, unerupted teeth, hidden cysts, and a variety of other things waiting to be a problem. It is an important part of the dental cleaning process.
STEP 2: SUPRAGINGIVAL CLEANING
The tartar and plaque that is visible above the gum line is removed so that all surfaces of each tooth may be visualized.
STEP 3: SUBGINGIVAL CLEANING
This is cleaning the area under the gum line. In our animal patients, this is the most important step. The subgingival plaque and calculus are what cause periodontal disease. This is the most common ailment diagnosed in ALL animal patients. Cleaning the tooth surface above the gum line will make the teeth look nice, but in reality, does little medically for the patient.
STEP 4: ADVANCED DENTAL IMAGING
Advanced Dental Imaging is taken of every tooth in the mouth to discover problems, such as retained roots, enamel defects, root abscesses and bone loss due to infection.
STEP 5: POLISHING
The mechanical removal of the plaque and calculus causes microscopic roughening of the tooth surface. This roughening increases the retentive ability of the tooth for plaque and calculus. Polishing will smooth the surface and decrease the adhesive ability of plaque.
STEP 6: SUB-GINGIVAL LAVAGE
The scaling and polishing of the teeth will cause a lot of debris to become trapped under the gums. This will cause local inflammation, as well as increase the chance of future periodontal disease. For this reason, we gently flush the gingiva with an antibacterial solution.
STEP 7: FLUORIDE TREATMENT
The benefit of fluoride is that it strengthens enamel, decreases tooth sensitivity, and is reported to slow the formation of Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions thanks to its anti-plaque qualities. Fluoride can be toxic if swallowed by dogs and cats; therefore, we carefully remove any excess fluoride from the mouth before waking your pet.
STEP 8: TREATMENTS
If any abnormalities were found during the assessment and Dental Advanced Imaging, various treatments may be recommended. Some examples of treatments are tooth extraction, bonded sealants of fractures and local antibiotic treatment of pockets around the teeth. The veterinarian will explain any abnormalities and discuss treatment options. We are happy to provide an estimate at each stage of this procedure.
STEP 9: PREVENTION
Prevention is one of the most important parts of the oral hygiene procedure.
Our pets have a strong instinct to hide pain, so this can be difficult to recognize. Many times, they will mask the pain and owners may not even notice a difference in their pet’s eating or day-to-day routines. This is why our pets will continue eating, even if their teeth look or smell bad. Some lesser-known indications of pain include increased licking, altered or heavy breathing, changes in posture, and changes in sleep habits.
Extractions are performed only when your veterinarian validates the necessity for prolonged health of the mouth.
As part of the dental cleaning, we take a full set of digital dental x-rays.
With these, we can look for infection, fractures and pockets around the teeth. Some pets need to have a dental done on a yearly basis, while others have them more or less frequently depending on overall health of the mouth. Digital x-rays are also taken of the whole mouth following extractions to ensure that all roots were removed.
Beyond routine cleaning, our pets occasionally need advanced dental procedures. They may have chipped a tooth, or have advanced dental disease that causes discomfort while eating. Our advanced dental services include:
- Endodontics (root canal)
- Surgical extractions with digital x-ray
- Removal of retained roots
- Dentigerous cyst removal
- Orthodontics for malocclusion
- Jaw fracture repairs
- Full mouth extractions
We recommend a diet made by Royal Canin Dental. There are other foods on the market that are available over the counter but be cautious when looking at them. Unless they carry the seal of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) they have not proven to help at all!
Cats usually have slightly fishy breath, but if it is strong or offensive it can be a sign of a larger problem. Dental disease is one of the most common problems in adult cats. Plaque and tartar on the teeth can lead to periodontal disease and gingivitis. Untreated dental disease can lead to oral pain, difficulty chewing, abscessed teeth, tooth loss and potentially infection in other organ systems including the heart and kidneys.
Cats are especially susceptible to inflammation of the oral cavity. They can develop resorptive lesions (FORL) in which the body eats away at the tooth until it is completely gone.
A Proactive Dental Plan
Because dental health is an important part of your cat’s overall health its important to develop a proactive plan to deal with dental disease and hopefully prevent the loss of teeth. This would include
- Veterinary dental exams during physicals
- Home dental care (brushing teeth)
- Monthly at home oral exams by owners
Is There a Food That Can Help?
Lots of products claim to promote dental health. The truth is, dental disease is mostly genetically driven in cats. Although many believe that dry food is better for teeth than wet food, some veterinarians believe the added sugar in “crunchies” actually can lead to plaque accumulation. The best thing you can do (although your cat may not allow it) is to brush their teeth and make sure the vet is following their dental health.