February is National Veterinary Dentistry Month
Did you know that up to 85% of dogs over the age of three have some degree of dental disease? Did you also know that proper dental care is one of the most important factors in lengthening the life of your pet? (Also up there is weight control- more on that another month.) All dogs and cats can get dental problems, but small dogs in particular are prone to dental disease. And with the Yorkshire terrier taking over as the number one breed in the country, we will be seeing more dental problems than ever.
There are many things that you can do to prevent dental disease in your pet. Most importantly, make sure your pet has annual check-ups. Part of our comprehensive physical exam is an exam of the mouth. We look for evidence of gingivitis (gum disease), tartar, plaque and calculus on the teeth (these indicate bacteria and infection), broken teeth, and other problems that can involve the mouth.
If your pet has evidence of dental disease, a full dentistry is warranted. We use general anesthesia so that your pet is not uncomfortable and the doctors can do a thorough exam and the technician can do a thorough and complete cleaning. Each tooth is examined to see if there are problems deep under the gums. Often, dental disease is not evident on the surface and is not found until this deep exam is done. Many dogs and cats have abscesses around the roots of the teeth that are causing them pain but are not found until the dentistry is performed. The teeth are cleaned and polished and a dental sealant applied to prevent future tartar from building up as quickly. If extractions are needed, your pet will also be given antibiotics and pain medication.
Many owners are concerned about having a dentistry performed because their pet is old and the procedure requires anesthesia. We do pre-anesthetic bloodwork, place an IV catheter and monitor your pet’s heart and breathing while under anesthesia to make everything as safe as possible. Many pets who need a dentistry are older and often have health issues because of the dental disease. By correcting this, we can make their lives longer and happier.
Another very important way to keep your pet’s mouth healthy is home care. The number one way to prevent dental disease is to brush your pet’s teeth. You can get your pet accustomed to this by starting with the front teeth and gradually working your way to the back of the mouth. It is important to use a pet, not human, toothpaste. They will like the taste better and you do not want them to swallow the fluoride found in human toothpastes. Daily brushing is best, but any brushing is better than none! Dental chews, tartar control foods also do help. After a dentistry, we often send home a product called Oravet which you apply to the teeth weekly to help decrease tartar.
If you notice that your pet has bad breath, has trouble eating, paws at his mouth or drools excessively, or certainly if you see discoloration of the teeth, redness of the gums or loose teeth, please call to have an exam done. By keeping your pet’s mouth healthy, we can help him lead a long and happy life.