Pet’s teeth are designed to last as long as they live. (In the wild, that is!) Sadly, the wild dog and cat’s average life span is about 3 years so a “very old and wily” fox or bobcat might make it to 6 or 7 years. This can be observed in gum inflammation and deterioration starting as early as 3 years old and ending in painful, infected and lost teeth from the ripe old age of six on out. Compounding the problem, much of this progressive periodontal disease is not visible to the pet owner. Teeth can look perfect and then be found to have no bone left around the roots on x-ray. On top of all this, periodontal disease varies widely from one pet to the next so don’t base any predictions of what the new puppy will be like on a previous pet’s experience.
What to look for:
- tartar with an adjacent red gum border.
- bad breath
- -dropping food, chewing on one side only, refusing dry food
- lack of appetite
- dark red swollen gums
- gum loss
- root exposure
- loose teeth
- jaw fracture
1. The very best preventative is daily tooth brushing with enzymatic toothpaste made for dogs and cats.
2. Antibacterial dental sprays, water additives, rawhides.
3. Dental chews that clean tartar.
4. Tooth cleaning diet (Hill’s t/d)
The basics of a standard periodontal treatment (the term used when gum disease is present) are:
1. Physical exam
2. Pre-anesthetic lab work, blood count, blood chemistries, and urinalysis.
3. Pre-anesthetic medications -pain medicine- usually a combination of two different medications
-anesthetic induction agent injection and placement of a cuffed endotracheal tube
4. Anesthetic maintenance – oxygen and gas anesthetic delivery – connection to monitoring equipment ECG- electrical /activity of the heart, heart rate CO2 monitor- monitors metabolism and respiration Pulse oximeter- oxygen in blood Blood pressure Body temperature – body temperature maintenance employed- forced air or other surgical heating mats
5. X-rays- full mouth x-rays taken by technician and read by veterinarian. -30% of periodontal disease is missed without x-rays!
6. Local nerve blocks (like you get from your dentist) if x-rays show extractions are needed.
7. Examination of teeth and gums with a dental probe and charting abnormalities.
8. Ultrasonic cleaning below the gum line and enamel polishing to slow the return of tartar.
9. Extractions if necessary- most extraction sites are sutured.
10. Re x-ray extraction sites to ensure complete extraction.
11. Optional application of fluoride/tooth sealer.
12. Monitored recovery.
13.Discharge of patient with a description of what was done and advice for prevention of gum disease.
14. Recheck in 2 weeks to evaluate oral health after periodontal treatment.
Remember that zero prevention equals a need for more frequent cleanings. Daily brushing with antibacterial toothpaste can take your pet from needing a yearly cleaning or periodontal treatments to once every two to five years. As an AAHA accredited hospital we follow the AAHA standards for dental care. The above steps are what our office provides to deliver the best dental care for your pets.
Lastly, effective tooth brushing is more a matter of having a daily routine and properly training of your pet to allow brushing without a fuss. I’ll go over how you can make this happen in my next article.
William Wiatt D.V.M.