Our Animal Hospital is Celebrating Pet Dental Month!
By Kara Holden, LVT
Here at Woodland Springs Veterinary Hospital, we are so excited and eager to help you with your pet’s dental health. We strive on educating our clients on all animal related topics, knowledge is power! So here are some fun facts about dental health:
Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed and preventable infection found in pets.
By the time they’re 4 years old, 85% of dogs and cats show signs of oral disease.
There are 1 TRILLION bacteria living in just 1 gram of tartar in your pet’s mouth? –GROSS!!!
Your pet does not just have “bad breath”; that is actually bacteria that you’re smelling. As your pet eats, food particles are digested by bacteria in your pet’s mouth and plaque is formed. As the plaque sits there, the gums become inflamed and infected – a condition known as gingivitis. If not brushed away, the plaque builds up and calcifies, forming tartar, trapping the bacteria that eventually make its way up under the gumline. This deeper infection, known as periodontal disease, not only effects the crown, root and surrounding jaw bone, but progressively damages the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs. While this progression doesn’t happen overnight, smaller dog breeds and cats tend to build tartar faster than larger dogs.
Once the plaque calcifies and hardens in to tartar, no amount of brushing will remove it. A professional dental cleaning is the only option to get your pet’s mouth healthy again. At WSVH a dental cleaning is a multi-step process. First we remove tarter from the teeth using a hand scaler. Then we use a periodontal probe to check for pockets under the gum line where periodontal disease and bad breath start. Next, we use an ultrasonic scaler to clean teeth above the gum line and a curette to clean and smooth the teeth under the gum line. Next, we polish your pet’s teeth for a resulting smooth surface. Finally, we wash the gums with an antibacterial solution that helps delay the build-up of tartar under the gum line and at the crown of the tooth. In order to perform this process adequately and safely, anesthesia is required.
Be wary of “dental cleanings” done by non-veterinary hospitals such as pet grooming and boarding facilities. While the cost is relatively low, their technique is not equivalent to and cannot qualify as a professional dental cleaning. Non-anesthetic dental cleanings performed at these locations often include just brushing the teeth, which will not remove tartar and infection. Other times, they are just chipping the tartar off the teeth which leaves infection under the gum line and roughens the surface of the teeth making tartar build up even faster. If the pet is not a candidate for general anesthesia, then other methods of dental care can be discussed with your veterinarian because an incomplete or improper teeth cleaning can be more detrimental to the health of your fur baby. Please visit the American Veterinary Dental College for further information on non-anesthetic dental cleanings: http://www.avdc.org/dentalscaling.html.
The true goal of any teeth cleaning is to remove all infection in the mouth.
Every time your pet receives a physical exam at our animal hospital, the doctor evaluates their teeth. Our veterinarians use a grading system to determine the level of dental disease a pet has:
Gingivitis. This early stage is characterized by red and swollen gums. A light coat of plaque covers one or more teeth. A veterinary dental cleaning and regular at home dental care can reverse this stage.
Early Periodontitis. Characterized by red and inflamed gums that may bleed when probed, gum recession and increased plaque accumulation. A veterinary dental cleaning and regular at home care may prevent this from becoming irreversible.
Moderate Periodontitis. Infection and tartar are now destroying the gum. At this point your pet may be in noticeable pain and have trouble chewing his food. Thick tartar covers his teeth, and his gums are cherry-red and swollen. Internally, bacteria weaken his teeth, ligaments and even jaw, while bad breath is consistent.
Advanced Periodontitis. Chronic bacterial infection is now destroying the gum, teeth and bone. Infection has spread to other organs of the body and are leading to illness or even organ failure.
The good news is that dental disease is 100% preventable! With yearly professional cleanings and regular at-home care, your pet won’t have to suffer with periodontal disease. We invite you to come by with your pet and have one of technicians do an oral evaluation and give you information on scheduling a teeth cleaning. Don’t forget, you get 10% off the cost of the dental cleaning if it is scheduled within 30 days of recommendation!!