Do pets really need dental care?

Yes!  Just like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to tooth and gum disease, and require both regular professional cleanings and daily at-home care.  Periodontal disease is the most common health problem in cats and dogs – all pets will have some degree of periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old! 

What causes periodontal disease? 

Normal bacteria in the mouth constantly form plaque, creating a biofilm that covers the surface of the teeth.  Natural chewing and tongue movements remove some, but not all, of this film.  If the remaining plaque is not removed by daily brushing, it mineralizes and becomes rock-hard dental tartar.  This tartar pushes on the gums, resulting in gingival inflammation, infection, gum recession and exposure of the sensitive deep tooth structures.  Untreated infection progresses to dissolve the tooth socket and root system, ultimately causing teeth to become loose and fall out. 

My pet’s teeth don’t look that bad – Why does my pet need0 a dental cleaning?

Early dental disease involves just gingivitis – reversible inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth.  The degree of gingivitis may or may not correlate to the amount of visible brown-colored tartar on teeth (which by itself is mostly a cosmetic issue).  Doing a professional cleaning when your pet is still in the early stages is important because it can completely reverse gingivitis, allowing the gums and teeth to recover to a state of complete health.  

What if I choose not to do a dental cleaning?  Are there any long-term health risks?

When gingivitis is left untreated, the infection progresses to degrade the tooth roots and the surrounding bone.  By that point, the degenerative changes in the tooth and its support structures cannot be reversed, and the teeth must be pulled to remove that chronic source of infection and decay.  This damage is painful to your pet and can be detrimental to their overall health.  Bacteria in the mouth are absorbed through damaged gums into the blood stream, and can result in kidney, liver and heart valve problems.  Even in older animals, the benefits of cleaning up the mouth far outweigh the risks.

What is involved with a dental cleaning?

Routine dental cleanings are an out-patient procedure, so you can drop your pet off with us in the morning and pick them up that same day!  We recommend running pre-anesthetic bloodwork to ensure that your pet is systemically healthy before going under anesthesia.  During the procedure, the teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaling tool to remove tartar from both above and below the gum line.  We evaluate the teeth for signs of root decay and extract any that are severely diseased.  Finally, polishing will smooth down the surfaces of the teeth to make them more resistant to plaque formation.   Most patients will go home on antibiotics for a few days afterwards. 

Digital Dental Radiography

Animal Clinic of North Topeka offers veterinary digital dental radiographs (X-rays) as part of our dentistry services. Digital dental radiography is an important tool in assessing the health of your pet’s mouth because early detection is key to maintaining your pet’s overall health and well-being. Dental X-Rays are extremely important for evaluation of periodontal disease, as 60% of the disease is hidden below the gum line. The location of tooth root infections, the extent of periodontal bone loss and the identification of bone cysts and tumors can all be identified using dental X-rays. We can also find broken and retained teeth, and discover cavities.

How often do my pet’s teeth need to be cleaned? 

Just like us, proper oral care in our pets depends on periodic professional cleanings paired with a daily oral health care routine.  Every pet is different, with some pets requiring a professional cleaning every 6 months while others can make it a few years.  As a general rule, small breed dogs need more frequent cleanings than larger dogs and cats.  If you are just starting a dental health plan, begin with a professional cleaning and then follow up with daily at-home care to keep the mouth clean.  The more you can do at home, the longer you can go between professional cleanings. 

I have heard of anesthesia-free dental cleanings – is that an option for my pet?

Anesthesia-free cleanings only scrape the tartar off the visible surfaces of the teeth, not up under the gum line where the bacteria originate.  Removing visible tartar without cleaning under the gums is of very little benefit to a pet’s health, and provides a false sense of accomplishment. The effect is purely cosmetic.

General anesthesia is an essential part of a professional cleaning because it reduces stress and anxiety, protects the patient’s airway, provides pain control, and actually allows for a thorough oral examination and proper cleaning of all teeth.  Most patients go under anesthesia very smoothly and are sitting up within minutes of finishing the procedure.  While it is impossible to guarantee the outcome of anesthesia, there is very low risk to our patients with the combination of a pre-anesthetic assessment (including a physical exam and bloodwork), use of modern anesthetic drugs and advanced anesthetic monitoring equipment.    Certainly the risk of anesthesia is far less compared with the risk of serious health problems that can result from unaddressed periodontal disease. 

Contact the Animal Clinic of North Topeka Today to Learn More about Pet Dental Care

Our friendly and helpful staff are eager to help you and your pet! Call us today at (785) 357-5188!