How often do you brush your teeth daily? Do you floss regularly? See your dentist every 6 months? Even with all this prophylactic care, you may still require additional oral care (root canals, crowns, fillings, etc).
Now imagine NEVER cleaning your teeth, ever. The majority of our companion animals receive little to no oral/dental care. Over time this can lead to infection and abscesses, oral pain, tooth loss, jaw fractures, and even organ damage (heart valves, liver, and kidney disease).
Most of these painful and expensive conditions can easily be avoided by good at home oral care. Daily tooth brushing is the gold standard of oral care. This can be done very simply with most pets by using a dog/cat toothpaste (no fluoride, no peroxide) and either a small, soft bristle tooth brush or finger cot brush. By sliding the brush or you finger behind your pet’s lips (no need to crank open their mouth!) most pets tolerate brushing very well. The toothpaste is flavored and most pets enjoy the taste. The best time to expose your pet to working in their mouth is while they are young and more receptive to new things, but hope is not lost for our older pets. With time, patience, and rewards most pets will accept tooth brushing.
Here is a helpful link for a video about how to brush your pets’ teeth:
What about certain pets, which no matter the technique or reward will not allow you to brush their teeth? Well there are many options for those animals as well. There are several commercially available diets that help crack off plaque and tartar. Royal Canin Dental Diet and Hill’s Science Diet T/D are examples (available for dogs and cats). If your pet likes to chew, there are rawhides that are treated with enzymes that can help break down plaque. One unique product, that is relatively new, is OraVet Chews. These chews have a softer consistency to clean closer to the gum line and an ingredient that helps repel future plaque from forming on the tooth surface.
Even with multiple at home treatments for plaque prevention, most dogs and cats will develop some degree of periodontal disease by the age of 3 years. When this happens, it’s time to have an anesthetic dental cleaning.
What happens during a dental cleaning here at the veterinary hospital? Your pet receives a physical exam and bloodwork, making sure they are healthy enough for anesthesia. Then an intravenous catheter is placed so that fluids, anesthetic induction agents, and emergency drugs can be administered. Each tooth is probed for abnormalities; tartar is scaled off with an ultrasonic device, and then polished to a smooth finish. Radiographs are recommended for all pets having a dental cleaning as the majority of the tooth lives underneath the gum line. Our in house digital dental radiographs are a wonderful tool in aiding us to diagnose problems early on, so that treatment can be instituted as soon as possible
No animal will allow us to fully probe around each tooth, take radiographs, and safely clean their teeth without anesthesia. In fact non-anesthetic dentals are dangerous for both the patient and team members. The American Association of Veterinary Dentist strongly advocate against dental procedures done without anesthesia, as the patient can be injured and much oral pathology can be missed. Leading you to think your pets’ teeth are clean and healthy, when really there can be disease present that goes undiagnosed.
Starting routine dental cleanings at the first sign of tartar or gingivitis can save our patients from more complex dental surgeries (like tooth extraction). At each veterinary visit the teeth and gums are examined for disease and appropriate care is recommended on a case by case basis.
Please contact our team for any questions about at home care and our in house dental procedures!