Halitosis, or ‘bad breath’, is often what alerts owners to their pets’ dental disease. Unfortunately, it is something that slowly builds over time to the point of serving as an alert to something terrible brewing inside your pets’ mouth.
Periodontal disease, or dental disease, is the inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. Plaque builds on the crown surface of the teeth, providing a cozy home for bacteria. The gum tissue surrounding the tooth becomes inflamed in response to the bacteria and then starts to retract away…with the only path being down the root of the tooth. As dental disease progresses, plaque turns to calculi, bacteria breed, and the gum gets more and more inflamed and retracts in its attempt to get away.
If left untreated, bone loss occurs and the potential for bone infection increases. As well as causing bone infections, bacteria from the mouth has been linked to heart disease, kidney disease and liver disease.
So how do you know if your pet has dental disease?
In a calm setting take a look in your pets’ mouth, paying attention to the gum line. What do you see? Are the teeth surfaces shiny and white or are they discolored or have any build up on them?
Is the gum line neutral pink in color or is there redness or swelling where it meets the tooth? Is the gum line even across the teeth? Is the left and right side even for build up? If the answer is no to any of these questions, there is cause for concern and a veterinary exam is warranted.
So what if your pet has dental disease or needs a dental cleaning?
Once build up on the teeth occurs, and dental disease starts, the only way to stop it is for the pet to under go a dental cleaning (prophylaxis). This procedure has to be performed under general anesthetic by a veterinarian or trained veterinary technician. General anesthetic is needed to allow adequate visualization and access to all areas of your pets mouth; it allows the technician and veterinarian to have 360 degree access to each and every tooth in your pets mouth. Dental radiographs, cleaning the teeth above and especially below the gum line with very sharp instruments, possible extractions and oral nerve blocks all need anesthetic in order to be safely performed on your pet.
It’s not uncommon to have a client ask us about ‘anesthetic free’ dental cleanings. As nice as it sounds, in reality they just can’t compare to a proper dental cleaning. Often these ‘anesthetic free’ cleanings just address the build up on the cheek side of the tooth, and only reach the crown of the tooth. There’s no ability for it to address the true dental disease occurring BELOW the gum line which is what is actually causing your pets dental disease. ‘Anesthetic free’ cleanings don’t address any loose, fractured or painful teeth in the mouth and certainly can’t detect tooth root abscesses or masses that may be developing. In order to receive an ‘anesthetic free’ cleaning, your pet has to sit perfectly still for a long period of time, being expected to hold their mouth open while someone scrapes at their teeth. It’s not uncommon for animals to suffer burns to the gums (if an vibrating scaler is used), fractured teeth (in some cases fractured jaw bones), or at the very least some degree of injury to their cheeks or gums from sharp instruments being used in their mouths. Take a look at the AVDC (American Veterinary Dental College) links to learn more about ‘anesthetic free’ cleanings.
Dental disease has been proven to be a painful process. Common signs noticed include poor or decreased appetite, decrease in grooming or play, increased interest in softer food or difficulty eating dry kibble.
Come join us in our quest to address dental disease in our pets!
Central Animal Hospital runs a dental seminar for clients geared towards education regarding dental disease, prophylactic cleaning (dental cleaning) and what you as the owner can do to help prevent dental disease. This dental seminar runs monthly and is complimentary. If you are interested in attending, please give the office a call at 250-376-7208 to reserve your spot today.