February is national pet dental month. This has become a tradition where an extra focus is paid to your pet's oral health concerns. And with discounted rates in place [at many veterinarian clinics] many pet owners choose February to have their pets' teeth cleaned.
Of course, we do dental procedures all year long and I do not recommend postponing dental procedures to February, if your pet is in pain.
It is estimated that more than 68 per cent of dogs older than age three have some form of dental disease.
While the most common problem in humans may be tooth decay, in dogs it is periodontal disease or inflammation and infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth.
As the gums become inflamed and recede, it exposes tooth roots and bony sockets that can spread within the body, not to mention the tooth loosens and falls out.
If you lift your dog's lip and see brown tartar on the teeth, it is an indication that your pet's teeth need a good cleaning.
Tartar forms from mineralization of plaque on the teeth, which is full of bacteria.
Regular brushing with veterinary toothpaste is the best way to prevent build-up. There are some excellent dental diets that work very well to reduce tartar and clean teeth as they chew.
A routine dental cleaning will usually involve some form of anaesthetic to do a thorough job. The pet is anaesthetized and given intravenous fluids while closely monitored.
All of the teeth are assessed individually to look for deep pockets or signs of fractures or loose teeth.
Sometimes X-rays need to be done to evaluate the health of the roots.
Extraction of unhealthy teeth may be done and the rest are scaled and polished to reduce future plaque accumulation.
There are a few non-veterinary people who advertise "no-anaesthetic dentistry."
These are often done through grooming facilities, and often do a great disservice to the pet by simply scaling off some tartar on the outside of the teeth with no cleaning of the deeper tartar below the gum line, which is causing the periodontal problems. It is a poor substitute for a proper dental cleaning.
Cats are prone to similar dental problems as dogs; however they often get a unique condition called oral resorptive lesions where the enamel is destroyed and leads to a deep hole right into the pulp of the tooth.
They may appear as a small red area where the tooth meets the gums but under the gums it can be very severe and painful.
The exact cause of this is not well known and there has been little success with treatment so usually these painful teeth need to be removed.
Brushing the cat's teeth and using the dental diets like we do for dogs can be very helpful to prevent dental problems in cats.
Feel free to call us for a complimentary dental exam of your pet during national pPet dental month.