Pets, like people, need regular dental care. Over eighty percent of pets older than three years of age have periodontal disease. Most gum disease can be prevented with regular check-ups, dental cleaning, daily brushing and proper nutrition.
Without regular brushing, plaque accumulates on your pet’s teeth. Plaque is a combination of food, debris, bacteria, and saliva. As plaque builds up, gingivitis occurs. Gingivitis is red, inflamed gums, which can be painful. Up to this point the condition is reversible with home dental care.
If the plaque is not removed, it mineralizes and forms calculus. You may have noticed this hard, brown material on your pet’s teeth. Gums recede as calculus builds up, forming bacteria filled pockets. The bacteria pockets then infect the gum tissue, the roots of teeth, and will erode the bone that secures teeth, which will lead to the teeth falling out or breaking off at the gum line.
Periodontal disease breaks down the gums, which are an excellent barrier against harmful bacteria. Bacteria can then invade the tissues locally and travel through the blood stream to other parts of the body.
Some signs of poor oral health:
- bad breath
- excessive salivation
- red, bleeding or receded gums
- difficulty eating
- pain around the mouth
- loose teeth
- reluctance to play with toys
- pus/discharge from mouth
Poor dental health can lead to a whole lot more than just bad breath – the circulating bacteria can lead to disease in the heart, liver, kidneys and joints.
Dental Prophy (cleaning) and Radiographs at the Clinic
Your pet will be on antibiotics for 3-5 days before being admitted to our clinic for a dental prophy. The antibiotics are given to decrease the risks of circulating bacteria when we clean the teeth. Your pet will also be on antibiotics for 3-5 days after the dental prophy for the same reasons.
The night before your pets’ scheduled dental prophy, you will be asked to “fast” your pet from 10pm until admission to the clinic. This means your pet may not have anything by mouth – no water, treats, food etc. This is to prevent your pet from vomiting under general anesthetic.
Once admitted to the clinic, your pet will be examined by the veterinarian. Your pets’ heart, lungs and general health will be evaluated. We will contact you if any irregularities are found. We will not proceed if we feel your pet is not in appropriate health for anesthesia.
After the exam, a pre-anesthetic injection will be given, which will sedate your pet and provide some pain control. Additional pain medications will be given during the anesthetic. Your pet will also be sent home with oral pain medications to be given for 2-5 days after the dental prophy.
An intravenous catheter will then be placed. IV catheters allow further medications to be given without stress or trauma to your pet. This IV catheter is also used to give continuous fluids while under anesthesia, which helps maintain blood pressure and hydration. IV Fluids also support organ function and health. It also provides further security while your pet is under anesthetic, should an emergent situation arise.
General anesthesia will then be induced, and an endotracheal tube will be placed to maintain your pets’ airway. Endotracheal tubes ensure the uninterrupted supply of both oxygen and gas anesthetic, which are very important features of safe anesthetic.
We use safe and modern anesthetic protocols. Your pet will be connected to an EKG monitor (to monitor your pet’s heart) and a blood pressure monitor. The patients body temperature, heart, breathing, level of anesthesia, mucous membranes, pulse and hydration are continuously monitored throughout the anesthetic period. The utmost care is given monitoring your pet under anesthetic.
The veterinarian will take radiographs (x-rays) of your pet's teeth and jaws. This will allow the veterinarian to evaluate each tooth more thoroughly, both above and below the gum line (the crown and root, respectively). It also allows the veterinarian to evaluated the upper (maxilla) and lower (mandible)
The veterinarian will then remove plaque, tartar and calculus from the tooth surface both above and below the gum line – this is called scaling.
The veterinarian will then examine your pet’s teeth and make any necessary extractions. Teeth are extracted when they are diseased, causing pain, damaged or the roots are exposed. In some cases it is possible to have a dental specialist (we use Dr Loic Legendre) repair a tooth. This can be done with crowns, roots canals, caps etc. Dr Mackenzie will discuss these options with you.
If extractions are required, a nerve block (i.e., local anesthetic) is placed to help prevent the ‘pain message’ from being sent from the extraction site to the brain.
The teeth will then be polished with a fluoride dental paste. This polish helps delay the recurrence of plaque and tartar. A final antibacterial rinse will then be applied.
Your pet will then be awakened from anesthetic. With our protocols, pets remain sedate and relaxed by design. This allows them to rest and recover from the anesthesia without stress. Your pet will be monitored and kept warm for the rest of the day. Typically, pets go home in the late afternoon, of the same day. Post anesthetic instructions will be given to you at the time of discharge.
It is important to start a dental care routine at home soon after your pet’s dental prophy because plaque begins to form within 24 hours after the cleaning procedure.
Start slowly by gently handling your pet’s mouth. Massage along the cheek-side of the tooth and gumline with your finger. If your pet resists, calmly stroke and reassure him or her. Try again. Make this a comfortable relaxing time for both of you. It may take a few short sessions for both you and your pet to become comfortable with brushing – be patient.
When your pet accepts the handling of its mouth, wrap a cloth or gauze around your index finger to wipe plaque from cheek-side tooth surfaces and the gumline. After your pet is used to the cloth or gauze, you may add a little pet toothpaste or tooth solution. Never use human toothpaste, pets can’t spit it out and it will cause stomach upset. We have a variety of teeth cleaning products with different flavours.
After your pet accepts the cloth or gauze, start brushing with a special soft-bristle pet toothbrush. Gently hold the mouth closed with one hand and lift the lip on one side, and brush cheek-side surfaces of teeth and gumline. This is where the salivary glands are located, and many of the problems occur. Soon enough your pet will be comfortable with having their teeth brushed and you will be able to brush them all.
Give your pet lots of praise and the occasional treat as a reward for cooperation. The entire dental care routine should only take a few minutes.
If your pet will not tolerate brushing there are a few alternatives to help with dental care. A tooth cleaning gel can be placed at the back of your pet’s mouth and the natural action of saliva will wash it over their teeth, or a dental wash can be squirted onto the teeth. These are not as effective as brushing, but are certainly better than nothing.
Another option to help you combat dental disease is to feed your pet a “dental diet”.
Royal Canin has created a Dental Formula. This food contains sodium hexametaphosphate (HMP) & polyphosphates, which lessens tartar and calculus formation by binding the calcium that naturally occurs in saliva. Binding the calcium interferes with its ability to combine with plaque, thus preventing it from hardening into tartar. The kibbles are larger in size, which encourages chewing, which enhances the spread of the HMP & polyphosphates throughout your pets’ mouth. The large kibbles also scrub away plaque that has accumulated during the chewing process. This food was specifically designed to assist with dental care - and it’s a very tasty, well balanced diet.
We have all the clinic cats are on Royal Canin’s Dental diet. They love it & their teeth are looking great! It is a well-rounded diet, with natural preservatives that keeps their insides, coat & teeth healthy!
So there is dental care! If you have any concerns or questions about the dental procedure or dental care, please feel free to ask. We’d love to team up with you to help your pet have a long life with a beautiful healthy smile!!
Dr. Dave and Staff