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What are the consequences for not maintaining my pet’s oral health?

They are many, but perhaps the most significant is quality of life. Believe it or not,even though your pet may not be acting differently, the fact is that dental disease is affecting their well-being. We hear from owners almost daily who tell us how much better their pet seems to feel after we have treated their oral disease. Many pets become more playful, more social, less aggressive, and generally exhibit a more robust attitude at home. Other than this, maintaining a healthy oral cavity will help to prevent the possibility of damage to other internal organs from the infection in the mouth.

Why does my pet need to have their teeth cleaned?

It’s important to their overall health and quality of life. Dental plaque is composed mostly of bacteria, which means an infection. Anything beyond dog or cat breath is an indication that the bacteria are winning the battle. As the body fights the bacteria, the surrounding tissues become inflamed. At this point, they start to cause discomfort, and most animals will not show any outward signs of this. The bacteria on the teeth do get into the blood stream, and can have deleterious effects on other systems in the body, including the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an oral hygiene procedure?

This is the process by which the entire oral cavity and dentition(teeth) are cleaned,examined, probed, charted, and treated. The goal is to provide a mouth that is free from disease and is comfortable, functional, and set up for long term success!

What does it mean for a veterinarian to be board certified as a specialist?

In order to become board certified, one has to first complete veterinary school. This is followed by years in general practice or an internship, followed by completion of an approved residency. During the residency, advanced training in dental and oral surgical techniques are mastered. Other requirements include research, case reports, presentations, and publications. After the residency, one must pass a rigorous two day examination process. If completed successfully, board certification is awarded, designating that individual as an expert in the field.

How can I maintain my pet’s oral care from home?

There are several ways to help keep your pet’s teeth and oral cavity disease free. These include brushing, rinses, gels, certain foods and treats, dental sealants, and regular veterinary examinations. Some products are better than others, and we are happy to help guide you with your choices.

How often should I brush my pet’s teeth?

While daily brushing is ideal, studies have demonstrated that a minimum of 4 – 5 times a week is necessary to help fight back periodontal disease.

Is there a food that will promote my pet’s oral hygiene?

Yes! A good place to look for foods(and other products) that have been shown to reduce dental disease is www.vohc.org.

What are signs that my pet has oral disease?

Unfortunately, in many cases, there are no overt signs. The most consistent, though, is probably bad breath. There is dog/cat breath, and then there is bad breath. Anything beyond “normal” breath indicates that there is disease that needs to be treated before it becomes worse. A good examination at least every 6 months is what we recommend, or more frequently if indicated. Other signs you may notice are excessive salivation or drooling, not crunching food, not playing with toys as often, and in cats especially, lethargy or simply a decrease in playful behaviors.

Can I brush my pet’s teeth to remove visible calculus build-up?

Unfortunately, once the plaque becomes mineralized onto the teeth as calculus, brushing will not do much good. The calculus that forms actually helps to protect the bacteria underneath of it, which then transforms into a more pathogenic type and hastens destruction of normal tissues. Only a professional scaling, under anesthesia, followed by polishing and perhaps sealant application, can treat the calculus and prevent further harm.

Does my pet need to be under general anesthesia for a dental cleaning?

Only if you want it done safely and correctly! There is simply no way for all disease to be identified and treated appropriately without the aid of anesthesia, which is extremely safe(please see our section on anesthesia-free dentistry).

Will my pet be able to eat after a dental procedure?

Yes! Most of our patients are eating the same night as the procedure, many of them doing so without pain for the first time in a long time. During the healing process, we will recommend that they be fed a softened diet, but once healed they can generally get back to their normal routine.

Will my pet be able to function normally if teeth are missing?

Absolutely! Domesticated dogs and cats do not, in fact, even need teeth in order to live a happy and comfortable life! In fact, they will be happier living without the teeth that were causing pain in the first place.

My pet has a broken tooth, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. Should it be treated?

Absolutely. We should try to identify the cause of the broken tooth, which oftentimes is a hard chew treat or toy, and remove it. When a tooth breaks, it can expose the pulp, which is where the nerve lives. When exposed, it’s painful! Most animals will not show signs of this pain, however, so it is important to have the tooth treated before it becomes abscessed and causes additional problems. Even if the pulp is not exposed, breaking a tooth can lead to death of the pulp, so dental x-rays are warranted in order monitor the tooth. Extraction is an option, but endodontic therapy(root canal) can also be used to treat the broken tooth.