Dental care is an essential component of preventative care in pets. It helps to maintain or improve a pet’s overall health, contributes to longevity, and improves quality of life. But, all too often, routine dental care is overlooked in our animal counterparts.
At the Animal Hospital of Dunedin, we are committed to reducing the number of pets we see with moderate to severe dental disease. Over 80% of dogs and cats have some degree of dental disease by their third birthday. It is the most common condition affecting our furry family members today. Fortunately, it’s entirely preventable!
Maintaining the cleanliness and condition of the gums and teeth is not a cosmetic or superficial service. Sure, it eliminates ‘doggy breath’ and whitens the teeth; but, more than that, routine dental care prevents oral bacteria from causing oral pain and secondary infections in the mouth and the rest of the body.
Comparable to human dentistry, the consequences of neglected dental care can be intensely painful and chronic. Overtime, diseased teeth and gums will have a negative effect on your pet’s quality of life. Eating food will be more difficult, playing might be less enjoyable, and you may be less receptive to physical touch from human family members.
More so, oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and spread to the rest of the body. This leads to concerns that go beyond bad breath and discolored teeth, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease.
Observe any of these signs in your pet? Let us know so we can help!
We follow a 3-step approach to preventative veterinary dentistry: 1) dental examinations, 2) professional dental cleanings, and 3) continued at-home care.
Step 1. Dental Examinations
We can tell a lot about your pet’s overall dental condition with just our eyes (and our noses). That’s why you can expect a visual dental examination to be part of every wellness exam your pet has at our facility. During the nose-to-tail physical examination, one of our veterinarians will take the time to gently check the teeth and gums for signs of dental disease.
We will recommend digital radiographs be taken of your pet’s oral cavity if we notice visible tartar, decayed teeth, or signs of pain during the visual dental examination. This is an indispensable step in the diagnosis of dental disease, as the majority of dental disease is found in the tissues below the gumline.
Digital radiographs can identify a range of painful dental conditions, such as broken teeth, severely rotted teeth, and foreign objects lodged beneath the gums.
Extractions are recommended in severe cases of dental disease. If the teeth and gums have irreversible damage, extractions are needed to fully relieve your pet of the chronic pain and daily discomfort. All dental extractions and surgical procedures follow strict surgical protocols focused on safety and pain management.
Step 2. Dental Cleanings
Once your pet’s teeth have been examined and we understand the severity of dental disease in your pet, we’re ready to perform the professional dental cleaning under general anesthesia. Because most dental disease is below the gumline, a superficial cleaning of the teeth will not be sufficient treatment. To fully rid the teeth and gums of oral bacteria, we’ll use advanced dental technology similar to what you would find at the human dentist office to deep-clean above and below the gumline.
General anesthesia is legally required to perform veterinary dental cleanings. It allows our staff to safely perform the dental cleaning with the least amount of pain or stress to your pet.
Step 3. At-home Care
Consider this… You visit the human dentist office once every six months to a year, and rarely, if ever, brush in between dental visits. If this were the case, your teeth and gums wouldn’t be in the best shape.
Like humans, a pet’s dental health is largely determined by the quality and consistency of daily at-home care. By maintaining the integrity of your pet’s teeth and gums at home between visits, you’ll keep your pet healthy and comfortable, and lessen the number of professional dental cleanings they’ll need in their lifetime.
Never use human dental products on pets! Your veterinarian can provide you with pet-safe dental product recommendations, such as toothbrushes, tooth pastes, dental chews, and oral rinses.
If you have a new puppy or kitten, our clinical recommendation is to begin brushing their teeth young! This will help them to be more tolerant to at-home brushing as they age