Teeth Cleaning / Dental or Dental Prophylaxis
Wild canid and felid species are not programmed to show any signs of weakness. If they do, they are moved down the ladder of seniority and singled out by predators. Our dogs and cats behave in the same manner. They do not show obvious signs when suffering from anything. They do not show signs of illness when suffering from dental disease in particular. Sadly, they do not know anything they can do about their dental health, so they just live with it. The signs of pain come on very gradually and the owners frequently associate the pet’s behavior with “just getting older”. Dental disease is a very common reason for a pet to act older.
For years, the standard of care in veterinary dentistry was to remove the calculus visible below the gum line (scraping) and extract any teeth with increased mobility. This level of care fails to address most painful but treatable pathologies present in your pet’s mouth. Teeth with increased mobility have likely been diseased for years! It is much better to find and treat dental pathology before extraction is required.
Approximately 80% of dogs and cats have periodontal disease by 3 years of age. 50% of canine and feline patients over 5 years of age have at least one painful dental problem. Periodontal disease has been shown to be associated with heart, liver and kidney functions pathology. Prevention is the better medicine. When we proactively look for and treat dental pathologies, the pets feel better, act normal and relate better to their owner. The owner benefits from interacting with a pet that acts normal because they are not in pain, their breath is not so offensive and as a result, the human-animal bond stays strong.
When do we recommend dental cleaning
The average dental cleaning in a dog or cat is like cleaning a person’s teeth after they did not brush their teeth for a few years! Even if your pet is eating normally, that is not a good enough reason to delay getting their teeth cleaned. The truth is, they will eat despite having severe dental disease and in many circumstances, swallow their food instead of chewing it first. They have teeth for a reason! Ideally pets should get their teeth cleaned every year.
Common indications for dental treatment
Gingivitis – red stripe along the gum line
Abnormal breath – due to pathogenic anaerobic bacteria
Any indication of oral discomfort – dropping food, lack of chewing, head shy
Any prolonged Nasal discharge
Epistaxis – bloody discharge from nostrils
Oral/facial swelling or draining tract
Fractured teeth with exposed dentin and/or pulp tissue
Malocclusion resulting in trauma to oral soft tissues or dental structures
Resorptive lesions (especially common in feline patients)
Orthodontic problems in young patients with deciduous dentition
At Liberty Animal Hospital, your pet is fully anesthetized for dental procedures, as they tend not to listen when we say “Open up and say AHHH!” All teeth are scaled with an ultrasonic scaler to remove plaque and tartar from the crown of the tooth as well as from underneath the gum line. We take full mouth x-rays to assess dental health underneath the gums. This is especially important because even if a tooth looks normal, it may be hiding disease under the gum line that we would not be able to see without x-rays. At this point, we chart the teeth to note what teeth are diseased and may need to be extracted to better the dental health of your pet going forward. After any diseased teeth are removed, we polish all of the teeth to remove any fine marks that may be left by the ultrasonic scaler. Your pet may need to go home on antibiotics to prevent infection, and also may need to go home with some pain medications if there were extractions performed.
At Liberty Animal Hospital, our veterinarian will discuss with you the treatment option that best fits the lifestyle of your pet, along with other factors that will help in recovery and early return to function. As usual, nothing is as perfect as “mother nature”, so it is best to decrease the likelihood of injuries by preventing obesity, strenuous and uncontrolled exercise. But if injuries happen, we are here for you.
Liberty Animal Hospital serves pets and pet owners in Westminster, Colorado and the greater Denver area. Visit our website or give us a call at 720-306-9900 to schedule a consultation to discuss your pet’s dental health and hygiene.