Dental disease in pets is probably one of the most common diseases we see in the veterinary field, second only to pet obesity and external parasites (aka fleas!). Studies have shown that by the age of just two years 80% of dogs and 70% of cats are already showing clinical signs of dental disease, the most common of which is bad breath (halitosis), and inflamed gums (gingivitis). More significant signs of dental disease are tartar (dental calculus), drooling, pawing at the mouth, blood from the mouth, tooth loss, tooth sensitivity, bone loss, dental pain, dental root abscesses causing secondary upper respiratory infections, eye infections and jaw fractures, and changing of eating habits (refusing to eat, or being a ‘picky eater’).
Just a little background about dental disease… Dental disease is actually primarily a disease of the gums – bacteria form into biofilms within the mouth (commonly called plaque) within 12 to 24 hours. The plaque buildup on the teeth near the gumline causes inflammation to the gumline if it is left there too long. The plaque becomes tartar after 24-48 hours once calcium salts from the saliva mix with a plaque. Once tartar forms on the teeth is provides a rough surface for more and more plaque and tartar to accumulate. Thankfully, as a pet owner, if you provide daily dental care for your pet before the plaque turns into tartar, you can easily brush away the bacteria before it becomes a problem.As the disease progresses into severe periodontal disease the bacteria start traveling into the bloodstream in greater numbers causing microscopic damage to the kidney, liver and heart. In humans dental disease has also been linked to different diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and some types of cancer.
Now for a moment imagine you never-ever brushed your teeth. Imagine how bad your breath would smell, and how much bacteria, plaque and tartar would be in your mouth after just a week, now imagine what that would look like after a year! On average most pets do not get their teeth brushed on a regular basis, thus regular dental cleanings are highly recommended in order to remove tartar and calculus buildup and help our furry family members live long, healthy lives.
As more pet owners have become aware of the need for dental care for their pets, many new procedures have ‘popped’ up, one of which is the NAD, or Non-Anesthetic Dental. Some people will have you believe that your pet’s teeth can be effectively treated without anesthesia. Do not be mislead. Non-anesthetic dentals are completely cosmetic, and do not actually treat the underlying disease. They are also inherently dangerous as these clinics must place sharp objects into your pets mouth in order to scrape off the tartar, many times in hard-to-reach places. If the pet moves in the slightest they can receive lacerations to their gums, cheeks and tongue. Since there is no control of the airway tartar and bacteria released from the teeth can freely travel into the lungs. These NADs are also inherently stressful, and painful for animals.
Fear of anesthesia is a common concern among pet parents, which is why many will avoid dental cleanings as long as possible. However, pet owners should feel safer knowing that with proper monitoring, patient evaluation prior to the procedure and diagnostics anesthetic risk is very low. Only 1 in 2,000 pets will have complications due to anesthesia (0.0005%). Remember age is actually not an anesthetic complication; we anesthetize senior pets regularly without complications at our practice.
Here at Twin Oaks Animal Hospital we have the latest monitoring equipment – keeping track of heart-rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, heart rhythm (EKG), and temperature. During our professional dental cleanings our veterinarian will perform a full oral examination to evaluate each tooth individually, charting any abnormalities. If any problems are found our veterinarian will make every effort to contact you during the procedure to discuss our findings and go over further recommendations. Our registered veterinary technician will scale your pets teeth to remove any tartar, paying special attention to both front and back of the teeth along with under the gumline. We will use a dental rinse to remove any excess bacteria, and then polish the teeth so they are smooth. Finally we will provide a fluoride treatment to help with the overall health of your pets teeth. After the procedure your pet will be monitored by staff until they are completely awake. Upon checkout you will receive a full dental report of all procedures and findings during your pet’s dental cleaning, and recommendations for future dental homecare.