Did you know that periodontal disease is the most common condition in adult pets? Studies show that poor dental health can negatively affect the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver, with the potential to shorten the lifespan of your pet.
Signs of Dental Disease
- bad breath
- pawing at face
- red, swollen gums
- facial swelling
- broken or loose teeth
- trouble chewing / decreased appetite
This dog presented with pain on opening the mouth, and teeth chattering. A dental cleaning was performed so we could examine the mouth more closely under sedation. At that time, we found a swollen, ulcerated tonsil – something we would never have seen without sedation. Sending a biopsy of the tonsil off for histopathology revealed squamous cell carcinoma.
Stomatitis, or inflammation of the mouth, is a problem we commonly see in cats with periodontal disease. This condition is very painful, with the most common sign being a refusal to eat. This cat presented with weight loss and decreased appetite, and was resistant to oral examination. For this reason, we recommended a dental cleaning. With the cat sedated we were able to see the full extent of the problem. Treatment usually involves removal of the teeth.
Sometimes a foreign body such as a stick can become lodged in the mouth. This causes significant pain, discomfort, and infection. This pet had a piece of wood lodged deep in the gums which caused the gums to erode, exposing the root. Once we removed the wood the gums healed completely.
Periodontal disease begins when, plaque (a film of food particles, bacteria, and saliva) begins to build up on the teeth. Over time, the plaque hardens into dental tartar or calculus. This buildup can cause pockets in the gums surrounding the teeth, and these pockets are the perfect place for more food and bacteria to become trapped. The bacteria spread underneath the gum line, causing periodontal disease (loss of tooth root, gum tissue, and supporting tooth structures). Advanced periodontal disease is very painful and often requires oral surgery for the extraction of multiple teeth. Periodontal disease is graded on a scale from 0 (nonexistent) to 4 (severe).
Professional Dental Cleaning
General anesthesia is necessary during a professional dental cleaning. This allows the veterinarian to perform a thorough oral examination and identify problems that need to be addressed during the procedure. The next step is to remove plaque and calculus from surface of the teeth and bacteria from under the gum-line. Lastly, teeth are polished to leave a smooth surface.
At Home Pet Dental Care
Brushing your dog’s teeth remains the gold standard for preventing the buildup of plaque and tartar. This may be difficult initially with some pets. In these cases a prescription dental food such as Science Diet T/D can be fed. Science Diet T/D is formulated to help clean the tooth surface and is clinically proven to reduce plaque and tartar. Oravet Dental Chews, which loosens existing plaque and tartar in addition to forming a barrier on the teeth against bacteria are also recommended.