Periodontal disease is no different in pets than in humans. Periodontal disease is the destruction of bone, gum tissue and structures that hold teeth in place. Periodontal disease is caused by bacterial infection that spreads, unseen, beneath the gumline. As the disease progresses, it destroys the bone around the tooth roots leading to mobile, painful teeth. Dogs and cats with advanced periodontal disease often require oral surgery to extract many teeth.
The truth is that you don’t. Unfortunately, by the time there are obvious indications of periodontal disease, such as bad breath and loose teeth, there is already significant damage. Periodontal disease begins and exists under the gumline where it is not visible. White teeth do not mean that your pet is free from disease. The only way to prevent or identify periodontal disease early is through regular veterinary dental cleanings under anesthesia, where the pet’s mouth is thoroughly evaluated, cleaned and all the teeth are radiographed to identify bone loss, periodontal pockets and other disease involving the tooth root and surrounding bone.
Fortunately periodontal disease is very preventable. There are two key components to preventing periodontal disease in your pet – home dental care and annual veterinary dental care. Imagine what your own mouth might be like if you never brushed your teeth. Your pet’s mouth is no different. Daily brushing remains the gold standard to prevent plaque and calculus and slow the progression of periodontal disease. In addition, there are diets, treats, chews and water additives that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of acceptance that can be used to assist you with your pet’s preventive oral healthcare program. An annual visit for a veterinary dental cleaning is an important part of your pet’s oral health care program. Annual dental procedures under general anesthesia allow your veterinarian to visually examine each tooth and use a dental probe around each tooth, in addition to obtaining radiographs to evaluate the tooth structure that cannot be seen with the naked eye. When you do this regularly, your pet’s mouth is evaluated, thoroughly cleaned and any bacteria or beginnings of periodontal disease can be addressed immediately before it causes extensive and expensive damage. Your pet will thank you with a clean and healthy mouth!
Bloodwork is mandatory for all our dental patients because this helps us evaluate your pet’s internal organ functions and allows us to better know if your pet is healthy enough to go under anesthesia.
Your pet is always monitored when they are under anesthesia. This means one of our trained veterinary technicians closely monitors your pet’s blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, electrocardiogram, respiratory rate and body temperature. Intravenous fluids are also administered throughout the procedure to help maintain your pet’s blood pressure and provide intravenous access for additional drugs if they are needed. Your pet is always kept warm with warming blankets during the procedure.
Dental radiographs allow the internal anatomy of the teeth, the roots and the bone that surrounds the roots to be examined. Without dental radiographs it becomes a guessing game as to which teeth are healthy and which teeth are painful and disease-ridden. Dental radiographs remove that guesswork and allow us to treat your pet without any guessing. Intra-oral radiographs are made using digital sensors placed inside the patient’s mouth, and provide superior quality for examination of individual teeth or sections of the jaws compared with standard-sized veterinary radiographs. Because veterinary patients will not cooperate when a radiograph or sensor is placed in the mouth, taking dental radiographs requires that the patient is anesthetized or sedated.
Augusta is a feline patient of ours who came in for an anesthetic dental. He had an enamel fracture to his left maxilary pre-molar and we were guessing it would need extracting. Because of our dental radiographs we were able to better see the bone and under the gumline to confirm exactly what was going on and if it was causing him pain. As you can see with the dental radiograph here, his picture showed there was no nerve exposure. He was able to keep the tooth! Just like a human fracture, we were able to restore the defect with a light cured composite material – sealing the vital nerve of the tooth. If it weren’t for our dental radiographs, then we would have pulled the tooth thinking it was an issue – what a mistake that would have been!
Saint is a canine patient of ours who came in for an anesthetic dental. He had dental care in the past without radiographs. Came in with moderate periodontal plaque and gingivitis. His oral radiographs showed he had several cavities. These were exposing the vital nerve of the tooth, therefore causing severe pain and infection. Without radiographs we would have never found this and Saint would have continued to live in pain. We were able to extract all the painful and infected teeth.
Annie is a canine patient who had a condition called base narrow. This is a condition where her lower canines were causing trauma to her maxilary palate. To correct this we shortened, restored, and crowned these teeth with a cast metal crown for long term.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not “normal” for your pet to have bad breath. It may be common in pets, but that’s typically because the pet doesn’t get regular dental brushing and cleaning. Bad breath is the most frequent sign of dental problems. Bad breath could indicate the presence of periodontal disease. Even if it’s only mildly bad, it means bacteria is trapped in the pet’s mouth.
If you see your dog or cat having difficulty chewing their food or suddenly losing their interest and appetite, she might need urgent dental care. These symptoms can indicate oral infection or inflammation.
When your pet develops inflamed, swollen or bleeding gums, this is often a symptom of a bacterial infection. The inflammation can cause significant pain and discomfort, but can often be reversed by having a professional dental cleaning or removing an offending tooth.
Yellow and brown stains on the back of the pet’s teeth and around the gum line are signs of tartar build-up. These go hand-in-hand with bad breath and bacterial infections, but can usually be removed by a professional cleaning before they become problematic. Of course, if you’re brushing your pet’s teeth daily you can avoid this happening in the first place and maintain your pet’s general good health.
You might think it’s normal for your cat or dog to lose teeth as she gets older, but loose and broken teeth are often signs of a more serious dental issue. If bacteria has eaten away the binding that holds the tooth in place, an infection probably exists or is in the process of developing. A loose tooth can also be caused by chewing on something too hard, which might open the root of the tooth and result in infection. Any oral bacterial infection can spread to the rest of your pet’s mouth, and eventually to the rest of the body.
Tumors or growths on your pet’s gums could be benign or malignant, and the only way to find out is to have her examined by a veterinarian without delay. If a tumor is found to be malignant, the treatment might require the removal of some of her teeth and/or a section of her jawbone. Pet parents who brush their dog’s or cat’s teeth daily are more likely to notice tumors in early stages, which is an additional reason to practice good pet dental care.
If your pet begins drooling excessively or pawing at their face, then they could have a dental abscess that is causing a lot of pain and discomfort. The carnassial tooth or fourth upper premolar tooth is particularly prone to developing abscesses, usually as a result of: trauma to the tooth, fighting, chewing hard items, and bacteria from periodontal disease.
Practicing regular pet dental care can prevent many of these problems. If your pet develops signs of dental disease, the sooner they receive treatment the more likely they are to heal completely.