Humans are taught from an early age to take care of their teeth. Early childhood educators dedicate entire weeks to teaching health to their young students to help them develop good dental habits. Yet, what about our furry children? With all their chewing of toys, shoes, couch legs, and other objects, their teeth go through quite a bit.
Just like taking care of your teeth is important, it’s equally important for your pet. Dental issues can become serious issues, causing extreme pain for your pet. Left untreated, dental problems can lead to major health problems like heart disease and kidney failures. Fortunately, there are things you can do as a pet owner to ensure that your fur child is well and healthy.
It is recommended for humans to get a dental checkup at least once a year. Similarly, your pet should get a dental checkup at least once a year as well by your veterinarian for early signs of problems and to help keep your pet’s mouth healthy.
A veterinary dentistry appointment includes the cleaning, adjustment, filing, extraction, or repair of your pet’s teeth, depending on the need. Please be advised that all medical and dental procedures should be performed by a veterinarian.
The beginning of a dental visit for your pet begins with an oral examination of your pet’s mouth. This, and all other dental procedures, are performed under general anesthesia. While anesthesia does have complications, these are minor compared to the lasting pain your pet may suffer if his/her teeth are not taken care of. Most pets have no issues with the anesthesia and can return home the same day that the dental procedures take place.
Anesthesia is required for dental cleaning and is not an option. We as humans understand the importance of dental cleanings, so when our dentist sits us in the chair and starts using strange-looking instruments in our mouth, we sit as still as possible and bear it. Unfortunately, our pets don’t have the same understanding as we do, and the strange dental instruments can be frightening. This causes unneeded stress on your pet and may cause unintended harm to your pet if they jerk and move while the veterinarian is trying to clean their teeth. Therefore, anesthesia is necessary to ensure a safe and stress-free dental visit for your pet.
After an oral examination, your veterinarian might recommend radiographs (x-rays) to evaluate the health of the jaw and the tooth roots below the gumline. Radiographs are completely painless and will allow the veterinarian to see what’s below the surface of the gumline because most dental disease occurs below the gumline. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), “after examining dental radiographs of cats and dogs with teeth that appeared normal to the naked eyes, veterinarians found 27.8% of dogs and 41.7% of cats had diseased teeth. In pets with abnormal-looking teeth, veterinarians found additional diseased teeth in 50% of dogs and 53% of cats.”
Your pet’s dental cleaning includes scaling, which removes dental plaque and tartar, and polishing. This process is similar to what is used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleaning.
When to Schedule Your Dental Visit
It is important to have your pet’s teeth cleaned and checked at least once a year. However, if you notice any of the following in your pet, schedule a visit with your veterinarian right away:
- Bad breath (“doggy breath” is not normal!)
- Broken or loose teeth
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
- Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth
- Irritability and/or avoidance behaviors
- Lethargy, inactivity, or depression
- Pawing at the face
Causes of Dental Problems
There are many different causes for dental issues in pets, and a trip to the vet can diagnose and help fix these issues. Here are some of the common causes of pet dental problems:
- Cavities – though less common in pets than in humans, they can still happen and cause great pain and discomfort.
- Broken teeth and roots
- Periodontal disease
- Abscesses or infected teeth
- Cysts or tumors in the mouth
- Malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite
- Broken or fractured jaw
- Palate defects (such as cleft palate)
Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats. By the time that your pet is 3, he/she will most likely have some early signs of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older. Early detection and treatment are critical as periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Not only does it affect your pet’s mouth, but it has also been found to alter the health of the kidney, liver, and heart.
Periodontal disease is a painful condition that occurs when bacteria, plaque, and tartar build-up on the teeth and get trapped beneath the gum line. The disease starts with plaque that hardens into tartar. Tartar above the gumline is easily seen and can be removed, but plaque below the gumline is harder to find. This tartar can damage the jawbone and the tissues that connect the tooth to the jawbone, as well as cause infections in the mouth and other areas of your pet’s body. The bacteria can be absorbed into the bloodstream and wreak havoc on other major organs.
Regular dental checkups and cleanings can help stave off this disease as well as treat it. Treatment involves a thorough dental cleaning, and x-rays may be needed to determine the severity and to see tartar underneath the gumline. Your veterinarian will make recommendations based on your pet’s current and overall health to ensure that they are being taken care of. Lazy 5 Vets offers 10% off dental health products this month that could be beneficial to your furry friend!
Taking Care of Your Pet’s Teeth at Home
Your pet’s teeth are similar to your own teeth. Most people brush their teeth daily, and, in a perfect world, you would brush your pet’s teeth daily. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between cleanings. This may reduce the frequency of your dental visits for your pet, and it will keep their teeth and gums clean. It is recommended that you brush your pet’s teeth daily, just like you brush your own!
If you can’t brush your pet’s teeth daily, brushing them several times a week can also be effective. Please use caution when brushing your pet’s teeth. Patience and training of both your dogs and cats is extremely important, especially if your hand is going to be near their mouths. Talk to your veterinarian about how to make this a daily routine for you and your pets, and for advice on ways to get them to be less resistant against a toothbrush in their mouth. Also, do not use human toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains fluoride and xylitol, and it is extremely toxic to pets. Instead, opt for toothpaste that is specifically created for animals. They even have fun flavors like beef, chicken, fish, and peanut butter. You can also prevent the accumulation of plaque and tartar by feeding your pet a special dental diet. Your veterinarian can recommend their favorite furry friend toothpaste and the appropriate diet for your pet. Remember, we’re offering 10% off dental health products this month, and that could be a great catalyst for starting a new, healthy habit.
If you have any concerns about your pet’s health or think it’s just time for their teeth to be examined, call us today at 704-636-1100! We’d be glad to get your pet in to see us!