February is Dental Health Month!
February is National Dental Health month for pets. Nearly all pets need professional dental cleanings periodically. But what does this mean and what happens when your pet has his or her teeth cleaned?
Let’s start with why your pet should have his teeth cleaned. Periodontal disease is common and present to some degree in over 70% of all dogs and cats over the age of three. Bad breath, drooling, reluctance to eat, and pawing at the mouth are all signs of serious dental disease. But these signs are not always present and may not appear until disease is severe. Dogs and cats are good at hiding pain, and serious problems may not be obvious. Loose teeth, broken teeth and inflamed gums are painful. Just because your pet is still eating and acting normal does not mean he is not in pain. Dental disease should not be ignored. It can lead to tooth loss as well as infection that may spread to the heart, kidneys and liver. Dental disease is not always readily visible either. The part of the tooth we can see called the crown may appear perfectly normal, but there may be disease present below the gumline. This is why a thorough exam of a pet’s mouth under anesthesia is so important.
Anesthesia is often the scariest part of having your pet’s teeth cleaned, but it is necessary in order to look at every tooth and to be able to probe the gums for pockets and to check all surfaces of the teeth; therefore, your pet needs to be asleep. Can you imagine trying to see all of this in an excited squirmy pet? Sedated dental procedures are a must. The risks of complications from dental disease far outweigh any risks from anesthesia for most pets.
X-rays of t the teeth allow us to see the roots of the teeth and assess any problems. If any loose, infected or fractured teeth are found, they are surgically extracted and the gums are sutured with dissolving stitches. A veterinary technician then uses and ultrasonic scaling tool to remove plaque and tartar and the teeth are polished with paste very much like what your dentist uses.
Early dental cleanings and home care save not only your pet’s teeth but your money as well! It is far less expensive and takes much less time to clean teeth with mild tartar than to deal with a mouth that has severe periodontal disease. Once the teeth have been cleaned, continuing dental care at home is very important in keeping your pet’s mouth healthy.
Brushing is the best way to care for your pet’s teeth, but it’s not always easy. Some pets will not accept a toothbrush. Teaching young puppies and kittens to have their teeth brushed is best, but, if you cannot brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth, oral rinses, water additives and dental chews or treats can also help to keep teeth clean and healthy. When choosing chews, make sure it is not a hard substance like antlers or bones as these can actually cause teeth to break. Choosing dental care products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal will ensure a safe, effective dental product for your pet. Much like the American Dental Association (ADA) the VOHC tests dental products for pets, so look for it on the label of dental products for pets.
Let’s work together to keep sweet smelling puppy and kitty kisses for all our cats and dogs!
This blog brought to you by The Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.