Since February is Veterinary Dental Month, I thought we could focus on dental issues for this blog.
There are three main areas of dental care that we can discuss: Prevention, Dealing with Current Disease, and Maintenance.
Dealing With Current Dental Disease
Signs of dental disease are what you might expect. The most common sign is bad breath (which can also occur with the gum inflammation of young teething animals or with more serious diseases like kidney disease, so, when in doubt, have your vet check it out). Other signs may be refusing hard food in favor of soft food, chewing on one side of the mouth, swallowing instead of chewing at all, rubbing the mouth on objects, pawing at the mouth, drooling, visibly loose teeth, tartar, or inflamed gums.
Certain pets are more predisposed to dental disease than others. Many young cats have a disease called stomatitis which may not be responsive to conventional antibiotic treatments and may necessitate the skills of a veterinary dentist (there are such specialists in this area), immunosuppressive drugs, or even a full mouth extraction (all the teeth are removed). Certain breeds of dogs, especially Yorkies. Yorkie mixes, Poodles and their mixes, and Dachshunds and their mixes seem to be the poster dogs for dental disease. Small breed dogs in general are more prone to dental disease because of the overcrowding of teeth in such a small mouth.
An animal that is getting a dental done is under anesthesia. I know this is scary but it is the only way to do a complete cleaning and accurate assessment of any oral problems, as well as to do any extractions. Prior to a dental, a physical exam and blood work will be done to give the best idea on how the liver and kidneys are functioning, as these are the primary organs that process the anesthesia.
Dental disease that is not addressed can lead to very serious health problems, beyond the bad breath and not eating issues. The bacteria in the mouth can travel to the heart and kidneys, leading to disease in those organs. It is not unusual for an older pet with unchecked dental disease to have a significant heart murmur and elevated kidney values in their blood work. This makes it more of a risk to put that animal under anesthesia to clean the teeth. It is likely that your veterinarian will recommend an ultrasound of the heart before placing the animal under anesthesia.
Dental cleanings for your pet are very similar to the ones you receive every six months. We use an ultrasonic scaler, check for deep pockets along the gum line, where bacteria can hide out, remove any diseased teeth, and apply flouride treatment.
When taking your animals to a groomer, sometimes groomers will break off the tartar and calculus during the appointment. This is okay for very minor plaque buildup with no gingivitis or disease. However, if there is any kind of real build-up of disease or bleeding or gingivitis, check with your veterinarian first because they may recommend a week’s worth of antibiotics, starting a few days before the grooming and continuing a few days after (remember the bacteria in the mouth could adversely affect the heart and the kidneys). The can also assess if a cleaning of just the crowns of the teeth will be sufficient.
If you have any questions, please call our office or your veterinarian.
Remember, every day is a gift! Lynelle