I was totally unaware that dogs have dental problems. Is it common?
Dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats. Over 68% of all pets over the age of three have some form of periodontal or dental disease. Most pets will show few signs of dental disease. It is up to you and your veterinarian to prevent and uncover this hidden and often painful condition.
Are dental problems the same in pets and people?
No. The most common problem for humans is that tooth decay leads to cavities. In dogs and cats, decay represents less than 10% of dental problems. The majority of canine/feline dental problems are caused by periodontal disease.
What is periodontal disease?
This is simply inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Accumulation of tartar (calculus) on the teeth contributes to gum recession around the base of the tooth. Infection soon follows and the gums recede further. If the disease is caught at an early stage and a thorough veterinary dental scaling and polishing is performed, most of the teeth and gums will have a full recovery. However, if gingivitis is allowed to persist untreated, then irreversible periodontal disease will occur. Untreated infection then spreads into the tooth socket and ultimately the tooth loosens and is lost
As the oral infection increases tonsillitis and pharyngitis can also occur. In addition, the bacteria are absorbed into the blood stream and can be carried to other organs. Heart valve infections (endocardiosis or endocarditis), kidney and liver problems can occur as a result of periodontal disease.
Is periodontal disease very common?
Yes. It is estimated that over 68% of dogs over three years old suffer from some degree of periodontitis.
What are cervical neck lesions?
Cervical neck lesions occur with cats and result from a progressive destruction of the enamel resulting in slowly deepening “holes” in affected teeth. Once the sensitive parts of the tooth are exposed, these lesions are intensely painful, and the only available treatment is to extract the tooth. The cause of this disease is unknown; however, poor oral hygiene is suspected to play a role in the disease-process.
What is tartar?
The mouth of all mammals is home to thousands of bacteria. Many of these bacteria will breed on the surfaces of the tooth and form an invisible layer called plaque or biofilm. Some of this is removed naturally by the dog’s tongue and chewing habits but if allowed to remain the plaque thickens, becomes mineralized and is then visible as tartar (calculus). The tartar presses on the gums causing them to recede and the bacteria result is gum inflammation and infection (gingivitis). The gums continue to recede until ultimately the socket is infected and the tooth is lost.
Can tartar be prevented?
Plaque is mineralized in some dogs much quicker than others. Tooth brushing and feeding a special dental diet are the most effective things you can do to help reduce tartar build up in your dog. Special canine toys may help as well. Not all dog chews are equally safe and effective so ask us which ones are suitable.
Will feeding dry food remove tartar?
MediCal Dental Diet and Hill’s T/D diet are 2 diets that have been proven through clinical trials to slow down the formation of tartar. It will not reverse what is already there. Therefore once tartar has formed it will be necessary to remove it with a professional scaling and polishing.
What is involved with a dental cleaning for my dog?
The goal of a dental cleaning is to remove the tartar and invisible plaque from the tooth surfaces, assess the gums and teeth for signs of infection and deal with it accordingly.
Tooth scaling will be performed both by hand and using ultrasonic cleaning equipment to remove tartar both above and BELOW the gum line. The tartar beneath the gum line causes the most significant gum recession. The teeth are then polished in order to help prevent subsequent plaque build-up. It may be necessary to carry out other procedures at the same time such as dental x-rays or extractions.
These procedures will be fully discussed both before your pet’s dental cleaning and when you bring your pet in for the procedure. We will need a telephone number where you can be reached during the dental cleaning so that we can discuss any additional work that may be indicated once we begin.
I’ve heard that my dog’s teeth can be cleaned without an anesthetic. Can this be done?
In an awake or lightly sedated dog, only the big chunks of tartar on the outside tooth surface can be removed. When you look at your dog’s mouth, it may seem like an improvement but as mentioned earlier, dental disease is caused by the bacterial build-up BELOW the gum line. Therefore to clean the teeth properly, we need to get between teeth and below the gum line. As well, polishing the teeth is an important step to the cleaning process as it smoothes the tooth surface to prevent subsequent plaque build-up. This can only be done properly on a sleeping dog. Also, this makes the whole procedure a lot less stressful for your pet.
How can I prevent tartar accumulation after the procedure?
Plaque and tartar begin forming in as little as six hours after your pet’s dental cleaning. We recommend beginning a home dental care program for all pets. We will provide you with detailed instructions on how to brush you pet’s teeth. Do not use human toothpaste. These are foaming products that are not meant to be swallowed.
In general, the more dental care that is done at home, the less often your dog/cat will need professional cleaning under general anesthesia.
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