Pets Have Teeth, Too!
Can you imagine going several years between visits to your dentist?
Worse, can you imagine never brushing your teeth? Just as with you, your pet cats and dogs need regular dental care to help prevent serious and costly problems ranging from loose teeth to liver disease. Studies have shown most dogs and cats over four years of age have varying degrees of dental disease.
Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about cat and dog teeth cleaning:
Q: My vet said my pet needs a dental. What does that mean?
If your veterinarian has recommended your pet have a dental, dental prophy, or dental prophylaxis, it means there are obvious signs of dental disease and it is in your pet’s best interest to have their teeth professionally cleaned and examined by a veterinarian.
Q: It seems expensive. What does the vet do to clean my pet’s teeth during a dental?
It’s actually much more involved than just cleaning.
Your pet’s teeth, gums, tongue, and surrounding tissue will be examined for signs of dental disease such as gingivitis, periodontal disease, broken, chipped, or loose teeth, lesions, abscesses, etc. Only a licensed veterinarian can diagnose these issues.
And the only way to safely and thoroughly examine your pet’s mouth is when they are anesthetized (under anesthesia).
Using proper equipment and medication such as anesthetic inhalant, an ultrasonic scaler, and hand tools (similar to what your own dentist uses to clean your teeth), any hard tartar build-up will be removed from both the exposed tooth and below the gum line (up to two thirds of your pet’s tooth is below the gum line).
As demonstrated in the video above, it is possible to safely clean below the gum line only when your pet is anesthetized.
Similar to what your own dentist does (when they probe your gums and call out, “one, one, two… one, three, one…two, two, four” ) the veterinarian also will probe around your pet’s teeth, call out the depth of receding gum tissue or pockets, and note any visible issues such as chipped teeth, deep pockets, loose teeth, etc., Meanwhile the trained veterinary technician will make notes in your pet’s medical record so we all can monitor the progression of your pet’s oral health.
Dental radiographs (X-rays) are sometimes necessary to assess the health of the tooth, roots, and bone impossible to see with the naked eye.
With a clear view of your pet’s entire tooth, root, and bone, veterinarians can assess whether or not your pet needs an extraction or other treatments. Again, our veterinarians will recommend further treatments only when absolutely necessary and in the best interest of your pet’s health.
Your pet’s teeth will then be polished to remove any abrasions (small scratches) from the dental scaling tools. This is very important because if your pet’s teeth are left with abrasions, it makes for an easy spot for bacteria, plaque and tartar to accumulate very quickly.
Q: Why won’t you clean my pet’s teeth without general anesthesia?
Because it is not safe or effective.
Q: Why are non-anesthetic or anesthetic-free dental cleanings illegal in California?
Because they can cause more harm than good.
You may still see advertisements for services called gentle dental’s, holistic dental’s, standing dental’s, or anesthetic-free dental’s, all of which are illegal and can cause more harm than good (which is why the government stepped-in to put a stop to this dangerous practice).
If you have any questions or concerns about the health of your pet’s mouth and teeth, or the safety of anesthesia, please first chat with your veterinarian.
Q: What about those people who still claim they can do anesthetic-free dental cleanings on my pet?
Groomers, pet shop employees and anyone else performing non-anesthetic dental procedures on pets are breaking California law.
While their scraping and scaling may make your pet’s teeth look whiter, your pet’s mouth and overall oral health is most likely not healthier because up to two-thirds of some teeth are below the gum line. And below the gum line is where the real problems occur.
Only licensed veterinarians are legally allowed to diagnose problems, recommend treatment, and perform dental procedures.
Q: How does bacteria get into my pet’s mouth in the first place?
Most of the bacteria (normal levels of non-harmful bacteria) are already present. Problems occur when the bacteria-laden plaque mixes with saliva. If not brushed off, it eventually calcifies into hard tartar.
Q: How can my pet get heart disease from an unhealthy mouth?
Harmful bacteria living in the calcified tartar below the gum line can get a free ride through your pet’s bloodstream and end up in your pet’s heart, liver, or even in their brain. This is preventable with proper dental care from your veterinarian.
Q: How can my pet get liver disease from an unhealthy mouth?
If your pet has been living with periodontal disease, in addition to bacteria getting a free ride through your pet’s bloodstream as described in the video, every time your pet swallows, a significant amount of bacteria gets swallowed, too. Your pet’s liver can be assaulted with bacteria from periodontal disease or tooth infections while it is trying to do its regular job of removing toxins based on what your pet consumes on a daily basis.
Q: How much bacteria can possibly accumulate on my pet’s little tiny teeth?
*One milligram of plaque can contain over one trillion bacteria.
Q: Isn’t bad breath in pets just natural?
No, it’s actually not. The odor in your pet’s mouth may be coming from the gasses released by the harmful bacteria living in your pet’s mouth and gums.
And as always, we’d love to hear from you. Have you tried any of the dental health products noted in the video? What is your pet’s favorite toothpaste flavor? Do you have any questions about pet dental health? Please call. We’d be delighted to hear from you.
*Virbac Press Release – dated 1-1-2010 PREVENTING ORAL DISEASE IN DOG AND CATS CAN BE EASIER AND MORE IMPORTANT THAN PET OWNERS THINK