Our pets need dental care, too

By JOSEPH A. D’ABBRACCIO, D.V.M.
Posted 1/13/21

Dental care is particularly important for human health and that also applied to a pet’s overall health. Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. More …

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Our pets need dental care, too

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Dental care is particularly important for human health and that also applied to a pet’s overall health. Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. More than 80 percent of dogs and cats over the age of three have dental disease. Few dogs show obvious signs of dental disease, so it is up to the dog’s family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and often painful condition. The most common problems are due to gingivitis (inflammation of the gum caused by plaque accumulation), periodontal disease and tooth resorption (seen in cats).

Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissue surrounding the tooth. Periodontal disease occurs when the accumulation of plaque and tartar cause pockets to form around the teeth, or it can cause recession around the tooth’s attachment. If this is left untreated, the infection often spreads deeper into the tooth socket, destroying the bone. Ultimately, the tooth becomes loose and may eventually fall out.

The mouth is home to thousands of bacteria; it’s far from a clean environment. As the bacteria multiply on the tooth’s surface, they form an invisible layer called plaque or biofilm. If allowed to remain on the tooth’s surface, the plaque thickens, becomes mineralized and creates tartar. The tartar accumulates above and below the gum line leading to inflammation and gingivitis.

Plaque formation can be prevented through daily brushing using canine/feline toothpaste that is specifically designed to be swallowed. Unfortunately, even though it is the best form of plaque control, many pet owners are not able to brush their pet’s teeth daily. Special chews and treats may also help reduce or delay plaque and tartar buildup. Some pet foods are specifically formulated as dental diets that mechanically and/or chemically assist in plaque removal. Drinking-water additives are also available.

Routine dental cleaning is often the only way to address severe dental tartar/plaque accumulation. Routine dental cleaning involves a thorough oral examination, including radiographs of each tooth. An intensive dental scaling and polishing is then performed to remove the additional bacterial population. A veterinarian performs this procedure after a thorough examination, blood collection and analysis. Early stages of periodontal disease can be reversed with dental cleanings; however, advanced stages can only be managed. Advanced stages include when there is severe bone loss/decay from the infection. When this occurs, often the best thing to do is to remove the affected teeth. Leaving such teeth behind can cause even worse bone loss, possibly so severe that the jaw can break.

The month of February is Pet Dental Awareness month and, with that, many veterinary hospitals offer promotions on examinations, blood testing or even the complete dental procedure. It is important to understand that, in order to do the best possible job, this procedure should be performed under general anesthesia and including X-rays of each tooth. There is no way to fully assess the integrity of a tooth without X-rays. If X-rays are not performed, your pet is at risk of continued infection, as the cleaning is just a temporary Band-Aid.

Catskill Veterinary Services, PLLC

www.catskillvetservices.com

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