Did you know that dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in pets? Dental disease can cause significant problems for our dog and cat friends, particularly as they get older. Fortunately, veterinary dental techniques have been developed to prevent, minimize, or treat the damage caused by dental disease.
Dog and cat mouths are very similar to our own. Puppies and kittens usually develop “baby” or deciduous teeth in the first few weeks of life. You may have noticed how sharp kitten and puppy teeth are since they love to chew on everything when they are teething. Just like a human child these deciduous teeth are replaced by permanent or “adult” teeth. This usually begins at around 3-4 months of age and is generally completed by about 6 months of age. Dogs have 42 permanent teeth and cats have 30. The permanent teeth are stronger and more robust and are intended to last a lifetime.
Just like humans, dental disease in pets can begin at an early age. Bacteria in the mouth combine with saliva and food debris and cause plaque to develop on the teeth. If plaque is not removed on a frequent basis, it will harden and turn into tartar.
Plaque and tartar provide a perfect environment for more bacteria to grow. It is this bacteria that causes the bad breath that many people notice with their cats and dogs. In addition to bad breath, bacteria cause irritation to the gums and surrounding tissues. Over time gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) develops. This is seen as a reddening and irritation of the gums adjacent to the teeth.
Unless the plaque and tartar is removed the gingivitis develops into a more substantial periodontal disease. The chronic irritation, inflammation, and infection begin to cause the destruction and breakdown of tissue. Periodontal disease can cause pain, difficulty eating, and may affect other areas of the body as well.
With periodontal disease we frequently see teeth develop painful abscesses. In other cases we see destruction of bone surrounding the teeth. We have even see jaws break because of chronic bone loss and infection in severe cases which have been left untreated.
The best way to prevent dental disease in cats and dogs is to brush their teeth on a regular basis. Surprisingly many dogs and cats will allow their owners to brush their teeth and some even enjoy it. It is best to start brushing your pet’s teeth when they are a puppy or kitten. If you start early and reward them for letting you work in their mouth they can be trained to have their teeth brushed daily.
A variety of tooth brushes are available for pets. For cats and small dogs a small toothbrush that slides over the tip of your finger can be very effective. Children’s tooth brushes or even electric toothbrushes are used by some of our clients.
The most important item needed for brushing your pet’s teeth is the correct toothpaste. Animals generally do not like the flavor and foaming of human tooth paste and will not like having it in their mouths. Pet toothpaste is available at Anchor Animal Hospital and most pet stores. This comes in a variety of flavors that most pets enjoy.
Yearly check-ups can help identify dental disease early. Most dogs and cats will develop some plaque and tartar over time. When mild plaque and tarter are present they can be easily removed with a simple dental cleaning. A dental cleaning for cats and dogs is almost identical to a cleaning for humans. The only major difference is that our patients need to go under anesthesia for us to be able to work in their mouths. A cleaning involves scaling the teeth, polishing the teeth, and providing a fluoride treatment.
In cases where periodontal disease is present a deep cleaning and sometimes even extractions are necessary. The doctors and staff at Anchor Animal Hospital are trained to evaluate and treat periodontal disease. We look for problems such as bone loss, pain, or pockets around teeth. We also have an advanced digital dental x-ray to help us look at the teeth and bone under the gums that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
When extractions are necessary we routinely perform surgical extraction of teeth. Using oral surgery to remove “bad” teeth helps ensure that the entire tooth is properly removed and the extraction site will heal well. Advanced extraction techniques also greatly reduce the pain.
National Pet Dental Health Month
February is National Pet Dental Health Month. To promote dental health and to help make sure that our friends are happy and healthy Anchor Animal Hospital is offering discounts of up to $55 on dental procedures during the months of February and March, 2009. Please call today to schedule an exam to have your pet’s mouth examined or to schedule a dental procedure.
• Your pet’s teeth are just as important to them as yours are to you.
• Cats and dogs can begin to develop dental disease when they are only a few years old. Ask your veterinarian about your pet’s teeth every year.
• Brushing your pet’s teeth can slow down or minimize dental disease.
• Dental cleanings when there is early dental disease help prevent pain and discomfort as well as more costly procedures in the future.
• Anchor Animal Hospital will be offering a discount (up to $55 value) on dental procedures during the months of February and March. Call today to schedule an exam and dental cleaning.
• If you have any questions about your pet’s oral health, please ask the doctors or staff at Anchor Animal Hospital.
• Visit our Dentistry Page to learn more about dental services at Anchor Animal Hospital.