Are dental problems common in household pets?

Yes, the most common problem in dogs and cats is a preventable dental disease. About 80% of dogs and cats show some signs of this dental disease by 3 years of age.

What are common signs of dental disease?

The most obvious signs of dental disease are bad breath, red or bleeding gums, mouth pain, tooth decay, and tooth loss. In most cases though, signs of dental disease cannot easily be seen, but your Veterinarian will be able to fully examine your pet’s teeth and discover some hard-to-find signs of dental disease.

Do cats and dogs have the same dental problems as people?

No, the most common dental problem people face is tooth decay or cavities caused by the loss of calcium from the enamel. Although tooth decay is present in cats and dogs, it is not the most common problem. Periodontal disease is the most common dental problem cats and dogs face.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is the inflammation and infection of the gums surrounding the tooth. Periodontal disease occurs when particles and bacteria build-up around the tooth causing tartar and calculus. This build-up causes the gums to become inflamed and infected, and the gum line begins to recede around the base of the tooth.

If this infection is not treated, the infection will spread to the tooth socket and cause the loss of that tooth. This infection could cause tonsillitis or pharyngitis, or even be absorbed into the bloodstream that will be carried and could damage the heart, kidney, liver, and other internal organs.

Can Periodontal Disease be prevented?

YES! Periodontal disease can be prevented.

There are many ways to help control tartar build-up, which causes periodontal disease, on your pet’s teeth.

1. Use a special dry diet created with ingredients that are designed to help control tartar build-up.

2. Try using dental chews and rewards with special enzymes that are created to help breakdown tartar buildup.

3. Try enzymatic rinses for your pet’s teeth.

4. Brushing regularly is the best at-home treatment for tartar buildup, but be sure to use animal toothpaste, not human toothpaste. See below for 6 easy steps on how to brush your pet’s teeth.

5. Professional examinations performed by your Veterinarian, and professional scaling and polishing.

Be sure to ask Dr. Wolfe for recommendations to best treat your pet’s teeth.

How do I go about brushing my pets teeth?

Start by getting your pet accustomed to having your hands near and in his/her mouth, this is the help him/her be more comfortable and less afraid of you. It’s really not as hard as it might seem. Just follow these steps:

1. Dip your fingers into some beef or chicken broth and massage the teeth and gums. Once your pet is comfortable with this, wrap your finger in moistened gauze or a soft cloth and gently rub his/her teeth around the gum line. Do this several time a week for a couple of weeks.

2. Next try using a soft toothbrush moistened with water or broth. For your pet, you might even want to start with a little finger brush which fits on the tip of your finger and has very soft bristles. If these are not available, a toothbrush designed for human babies works great. There are also special pet toothbrushes available to use with long handles and bristles angled just right for your pet’s mouth.

3. Next, progress to specially formulated toothpaste for cats and dogs, often poultry flavored. Never use toothpaste for humans, it can cause your pet to have an upset stomach.

4. Brush your pet’s teeth. Place your hand over your pet’s muzzle from the top. Very gently lift up your pet’s lips to expose his/her teeth and gums. Hold the bristles of the toothbrush at about a 45-degree angle to the tooth surface and move in an oval motion. Start with the front teeth and then the back ones. (You may need to start with part of the mouth and gradually increase time to include more teeth at each dental session.) Scrub especially at the gum line, paying special attention to the back teeth under your pet’s lips.

5. Establish a routine for your pet’s dental care. We recommend brushing the teeth once a day, preferably after a meal, just as you would for your own teeth. If this is not possible with your schedule, try brushing at least three times a week. The entire process will only take a few minutes and is well worth the effort.

6. Remember to praise your pet frequently during the cleaning process, and reward him/her with a treat and lots of love.

What does Dr. Wolfe do when gingivitis, plaque, or calculus is found?

  • Your pet is to be brought in the morning of the procedure on an empty stomach. Several lab tests will be run with your consent to be sure that there are no hidden problems that will prevent us from performing cleaning.
  • A light general anesthetic using a very safe gas (isoflurane) will be administered.
  • The teeth will be ultrasonically scaled to remove all the hard, calcified plaque using the latest hi-tech ultrasonic scaling equipment. They will also be polished and treated with fluoride.
  • Any severely infected or loose teeth will be removed to prevent persistent pain and problems. Antibiotics will be administered if needed.
  • Your pet will be given pain medication, antibiotics, and oral medications as needed after the procedure to control and prevent pain, infection, and bad breath.
  • Your pet will go home in the afternoon.

Can we brush away the plaque and tartar at home?

Over time, plaque turns to “calculus”. This is a hard rock like substance that forms on the teeth and under the gums where you cannot see. “Calculus” can only be removed under anesthesia with ultrasonic and hand scaling. Brushing can only remove the soft plaque before it turns to this rock like substance.

What can happen if we do not take care of this?

Over time, chronic gingivitis will lead to chronic infection which is painful, causes bad breath, and can spread internally to the kidneys, heart and liver. These problems cause premature aging, and can be life threatening. Infected teeth will eventually fall out. Animals do not complain about pain but the latest research shows that pets feel tooth pain in much the same way we do. Taking care of this problem before it gets out of control will prevent unnecessary suffering.

How often do we need to have my pet’s teeth cleaned?

That depends on the breed, life style, and frequency of home care. Smaller breeds need more frequent cleaning, as there is a genetic predisposition to plaque buildup and gingivitis. Pets that eat dry food, chew rawhide bones and chew toys are known to keep their teeth cleaner and need less frequent cleanings. Home brushing can help control problems before they start but it should be done at least 3 times per week to help. Most animals need their teeth cleaned every 1-2 years after 5 years or age.

Why does a dental prophy (teeth cleaning) cost more for my pet than for myself at my dentist?

Dogs and cats require anesthesia in order for the veterinarian to perform dental procedures, which adds to the cost of the overall procedures. Our clinic uses the same type of equipment your dentist uses on your teeth for scaling and polishing.

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