February is Dental Health Month
People often don’t realize their pets need dental work. However, this is a very common problem we encounter. Our pets don’t keep up with their dental care like we do, so they easily develop problems.
Periodontal (around the tooth) disease occurs when saliva and bacteria (plaque) build up around the tooth. If we do not brush our pets teeth, this build up becomes tartar (hard mineralization). The tartar then pushes the gums away from the tooth and creates pockets where bacteria become trapped. These pockets can cause the tooth root to abscess and the tooth to loosen and fall out, this process is very painful. As the bacteria build-up, they are swallowed and enter the blood stream where they can cause organs to become diseased. Other oral problems our pets may suffer from include: broken teeth, tooth root abscesses, retained baby teeth, and tumors in the mouth.
Signs of oral disease include: bad breath, loose teeth, teeth that are covered in tartar (usually brown in color), mouth pain, drooling, dropping feed, loss of appetite, and bleeding from the mouth.
Dental cleanings are performed here at the vet clinic. The process is performed the same as at a human dentist where the teeth are scaled and polished. In order to keep the animals mouths open long enough to do a thorough job cleaning, we use anesthesia. We recommend bloodwork prior to the procedure to screen for any pre-existing disease that may make anesthesia risky. We monitor the animals under anesthesia by continually taking their vital parameters (heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, temperature, mucous membrane color and refill time) and supporting their body with intravenous fluids. When we are finished with the dental procedure, your pet is constantly monitored until they fully recover from anesthesia. Later the same day they go home with their owners. Some patients will go home with antibiotics (if their mouths were infected), or pain medications (if we extracted diseased teeth).
We recommend a home dental care routine. This includes weekly (or more ideally, daily) brushing with appropriate tooth paste and brushes (human tooth paste is not safe for animals). Tooth brushing is the gold standard to prevent periodontal disease. This can be supplemented with dental toys and treats. Most toys that encourage biting will have a positive effect on the teeth, including rubber toys and ropes.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) awards its Seal of Acceptance to products that successfully meet criteria for effectiveness in controlling plaque and tartar deposition in dogs and cats. The VOHC is an entity of the American Veterinary Dental College. VOHC approved products include prescription Purina (DH), Iams, Royal Canin (Dental) and Hills (TD) foods. Greenies, Tartar Shield and other quality brands are also approved.
We hope to see you and your pets teeth soon!
Dr. Betsy Price