Periodontal disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats. Since most pet’s teeth do not get brushed daily, plaque can accumulate quickly on the teeth. Plaque contains bacteria, which can make its way under the gums and down the root of the tooth leading to periodontal disease. Toxins released by bacteria cause destruction of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth which leads to oral pain, loose teeth, and bad breath. In early stages (red, puffy gums) the affected teeth may be saved, but later stages of periodontitis can lead to extraction of teeth.
Clinical signs of periodontitis:
- Bad breath
- Oral pain
- Poor appetite / Dropping food
The best way to prevent dental disease is routine dental care at home. Just like with people, brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way to prevent plaque accumulation. It can take some time training your pet to be comfortable with brushing his/her teeth. If your pet is resistant to tooth brushing, start by rubbing around the muzzle and face while rewarding with treats and praise. After a few days, move on to lifting the lip and rubbing the teeth with a soft rag; again, while rewarding with treats. Once your pet is comfortable with this, then you can move on to using a tooth brush with an enzymatic tooth paste. Brush the teeth in a circular motion focusing on the upper canine teeth and upper cheek teeth.
If your pet isn’t amenable to having their teeth brushed, then you can consider specialized treats or water additives that are designed to reduce plaque. The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of treats at their website www.vohc.org that can be used to combat dental disease
In-Clinic Dental Cleaning
Even with the best of care at home, most pets need a periodic cleaning in the clinic. Dental cleanings for pets are similar to when humans go to the dentist. One of the main differences, though, is that pets must be anesthetized to perform the cleaning. This not only keeps the pet safe and allows a thorough cleaning, but also keeps the staff safe from a possible bite wound.
The teeth are first cleared of calculus and plaque using a scaler (typically an ultrasonic scaler). Then, the teeth are probed along their gum surface to look for any large gingival pockets, which indicates periodontal disease. Dental x-rays may be performed as well. If any teeth are unhealthy, then these teeth are treated appropriately or if the tooth is too far gone, it is extracted. The teeth are then polished and fluoride or a sealant is applied to the teeth.
Depending on the amount of home care performed, pets may need in-clinic cleanings every 6 month to 2 years.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so in response we are offering 10% off dental cleaning in our clinics.