The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. Dental disease doesn't affect just the mouth. It can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease, which makes it all the more important that you provide your pets with proper dental care from the start.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth that progresses in stages. It starts out as a bacterial film called plaque. The bacteria attach to the teeth, become calcified by the calcium in saliva. This forms a hard, rough substance called tartar or calculus which allows more plaque to accumulate. If left to spread, plaque can lead to gingivitis, causing gums to become red and swollen and to bleed easily. Initially, plaque is soft and brushing or chewing hard food and toys can dislodge it. As plaque and calculus develop below the gum line, professional cleaning will be needed to help manage it. If the plaque and tartar buildup continues unchecked, infection can form around the root of the tooth and eventually the tissues surrounding the tooth are destroyed, the bony socket holding the tooth erodes and the tooth becomes loose.
Dental Care by the Veterinarian
There are two critical components of your pet's veterinary dental care: oral examinations and dental cleanings. Veterinary dental care begins at the puppy and kitten life stage. As your pet ages, your veterinarian will look for developmental anomalies, the accumulation of plaque and tartar, periodontal disease and oral tumors. Veterinarians can perform a basic oral examination on patients that are awake. However, a short-lasting anesthetic is required in order to provide a complete and thorough examination as well as dental cleanings.
Retained Deciduous teeth
Usually by four weeks of age puppies get their deciduous teeth, commonly known as baby teeth. Beginning around three months of age, the deciduous teeth are replaced by the bigger and stronger permanent teeth. It takes an additional three to five months for the permanent teeth to replace all of the baby teeth. Occasionally, the permanent teeth do not erupt immediately under the deciduous teeth and, therefore, do not force the baby teeth out. When a dog has both an adult and baby tooth at the same site, it is referred to as a retained deciduous tooth. In the dog, this usually occurs with the incisors or upper canine baby teeth. In puppies with a retained deciduous tooth, a permanent tooth is seen along side the baby tooth it was meant to replace. The permanent canine teeth usually erupt in front of the deciduous canines.
Retained baby teeth frequently cause a crowding of the teeth along the gum line. This crowding displaces the permanent teeth so that they are out of line or grow at odd angles. The abnormal placement of teeth can interfere with the normal growth and development of bones in the jaws. They may contact the roof of the mouth causing injury and pain. Retained teeth may also die and abscess, causing mouth infections to develop.
Retained deciduous teeth should be extracted. This will usually require anesthesia and surgical extraction. Check a puppy's mouth weekly until about seven months of age for abnormal teeth. Consult a veterinarian for an oral examination if any retained teeth are suspected.
Whenever anesthesia is needed, special considerations are taken to help ensure the safety of your pet. Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your pet to make sure she's healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Depending on your pet's age and general physical condition, your veterinarian may also run blood, urine, and x-ray tests to check for any dangerous heart, kidney, or other conditions. Though there is some risk associated with any medical procedure, modern anesthesia is usually safe, even for older pets.
During anesthesia, the monitoring and recording of your pet's vital signs (such as body temperature, heart rate, and respiration, as well as other important factors) is important. This helps ensure the safety of your pet while undergoing anesthesia.
Radiographs (x-rays) of the teeth may be needed periodically in order to completely evaluate your pet's oral health. X-rays aid the veterinarian greatly in detecting abnormalities that cannot be found under examination alone. In some cases, x-rays can confirm the need for extraction of teeth that are loose or badly infected.
Veterinarians use instruments similar to those used by human dentists to remove plaque and calculus from your pet's teeth. To smooth out any scratches in the tooth enamel, polishing with a special paste is also recommended.
The application of Oravet, a barrier sealant, is applied after scaling and polishing. This helps prevent bacteria from attaching to your pet's teeth, reducing plaque and calculus buildup.
Home Dental Care
Your pet's dental care doesn't rest with your veterinarian alone. As a pet owner you play a pivotal role in helping ensure your pet's dental health through regular teeth brushing, dental treats, dental rinses and applying Oravet gel. Remember... pets can live longer, healthier lives if oral health care is managed and maintained throughout their lives. In fact, proper dental care may add as much as five years to your pet's life! Talk to our staff about developing a dental care plan for your pet.