Has Fido Been Flossing?
By: Dr. Nancy Moser
Dental disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a condition where the gums and other structures around the teeth become inflamed. This occurs when plaque and tartar-forming bacteria become overgrown on the teeth and gum line. Severity of dental disease can range from mild gum inflammation to more severe tooth root abscesses. When left untreated, not only will your pets have bad breath and need tooth extractions, the bacteria can move into their blood stream causing systemic diseases within the heart, liver, and kidneys.
An important way to keep your pet’s teeth healthy, just like in people, is to have routine dental cleanings performed. However unlike in people, a thorough and complete dental cleaning in pets requires they are put under anesthesia. Even though there are inherent risks with anesthesia, the benefits of an anesthetic dental cleaning outweigh these risks in most pets. During a dental cleaning, your veterinarian and veterinary technician will scale and polish your pet’s teeth, clean under the gum line, assess the health of their teeth, gums and jaw through probing and dental x-rays, and if needed perform tooth extractions. More extensive dental work, like root canals and crowns, can be performed at a specialized veterinary dentist.
Some dogs require their first cleaning by two years old and cats by eighteen months old; typically, cleanings are then performed every six to twelve months after. Many factors including age, breed, diet, and lifestyle can change your pets’ oral health needs. Tooth brushing, as often as your pet will allow you, and providing dental treats can reduce the severity of dental disease and stretch out the time between dental cleanings. Your veterinarian can advise you on a dental care plan that best fits your pet’s specific needs at their annual and semi-annual wellness exams. Signs that your pet may need their teeth checked sooner include: decrease in appetite, abnormal chewing and swelling or pain around their mouth.
Just like annual vaccines and blood work, dental cleanings can become a part of your pet’s preventative wellness plan.