In the News
Dental disease is one of the most common diseases our pets face and unfortunately is also one of the most undertreated problems. February is national pet dental health month, making this the perfect time of year to discuss these problems and ways to keep our pets safe.
Dental disease is the result of the accumulation of bacteria trapped in tartar that works its way along and under the gum line. The result of this build up is inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and damage to the tooth roots and surrounding bone. If left untreated, the disease can progress to the point of loose and abscessed teeth. On the surface, you may notice changes such as red, inflamed gums and a thick brown tartar on the teeth, the most serious disease occurs under the gum line where 60% of the tooth is located. Changes below the gum line can only be appreciated with careful probing of the gum line and x-rays of the teeth.
There are several things you can do from home to help protect your pet’s teeth. Daily tooth brushing is far and away the best way to slow the build-up of tartar. We recommended a flavored toothpaste to give your pet something to look forward to! Other ways to protect the teeth include dental chew toys and treats as well as oral rinses and wipes.
Even with regular home dental care, tartar build-up is inevitable, and professional cleanings by your veterinarian will be needed. A professional cleaning requires the pet to be anesthetized; we have yet to meet a dog that will say “ahh” and rinse and spit for us. We begin the procedure with full mouth x-rays, which allows us to assess the health of the tooth roots. The next step involves removal of tartar with an ultrasonic scaler. Once the tartar has been removed, we probe the gum line, looking for pockets of disease around the tooth roots. This step, in addition to x-rays, enables us to identify and address any problems we find during the procedure. The final step is polishing the teeth to smooth out any micro-abrasions that were created by the scaling; this prevents tartar from accumulating more quickly in the future. There is obviously some expense involved with the procedure, but many clinics will offer discounts on professional cleanings during the month of February!
A healthy mouth makes for more comfortable pets and protects against heart, liver, and kidney disease by limiting the spread of bacteria. Please keep dental health in mind this month and consult with your veterinarian about what you can do to protect your pet’s mouth.