Understanding the Importance of Pet Dentistry

As humans, we know how very important it is to maintain good oral hygiene. We visit our dentist twice a year, brush our teeth 3 times a day, floss regularly, and use mouth wash. It is a lot to do and remember but it soon becomes a habit to us. These same habits that we form for ourselves also need to be incorporated into our pet’s lives. Both cats and dogs form tarter on their teeth in the same way that we form tartar on our teeth.

If we did not maintain our oral hygiene, we would start noticing inflamed or swollen gums, bad breath, tooth decay, bone loss, discomfort in our mouths, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and damage to our vital organs as they work harder to filter the bacteria we swallow from our mouths. This same process applies to our four – legged friends as well.

Genoa Animal Hospital offers a pet dentistry program that teaches you how to maintain the oral health of your pet. We teach you the basics such as how to brush the teeth, which foods to feed and alternative methods of oral hygiene. Since our pets age 6 – 7 times faster than we do, the importance of a good oral hygiene program for our pets is magnified. When significant amounts of tarter are left untreated a professional dental cleaning is required.

Digital Oral X-Rays

Tartar and plaque can hide problems and concerns with our pet’s teeth. A good oral examination once tartar has been removed can uncover concerns. Tartar has a way of creating deep pockets which enables the tartar to get underneath the gum tissue and start to deteriorate the tooth root. X-rays are then needed to help see what we cannot. These films can tell us how stable a root is and if there are any pockets around the root that might be harboring bacteria. X-rays are also recommended for teeth that are fractured and discolored, as the tooth root can start to become absorbed. The X-rays technology is important when oral or facial swelling occurs. Tooth roots that are not stable and are deteriorating can cause abscessing and tooth loss; it is recommended that these teeth are extracted.

Oral Surgery/Extractions

Oral Surgery is performed to remove diseased teeth that are not yet loose.

First a mucogingival flap is created. Then infected bone around the tooth is removed. Any multi-rooted teeth are sectioned to allow removal of each root completely. After each root is removed, the sockets are flushed and packed when necessary to promote healing. Any sharp bony projections are made smooth. Finally, the mucogingival flap is placed over the sockets and sutured in place with absorbable sutures. The flap prevents dry sockets and infection of the underlying bone. No suture removal is needed. A free recheck is included 2 weeks post surgery to ensure continued proper healing.

What To Expect

Usually when we visit our dentist, it is a quick procedure. A 30 minute to an hour cleaning is all it takes. This is because we can sit still and work with the dentist. Our pets unfortunately are not as still during their cleanings. Therefore, we sedate and intubate all pets for dental cleanings. This is also done to eliminate our patients from swallowing the bacteria that has just been removed from their teeth. Our dental cleanings also include an exam, blood work, IV, anesthesia, injectable medications, heart monitoring, nail trim, and post surgery hospital care. Patients go home that same afternoon or evening with a nurse consultation and training session on home care.

We use a grading scale that helps us evaluate the hygienic status of your pet’s mouth. The grading scale has four levels:

Grade Zero: No Tartar and No Gingivitis

Routine cleanings and/or home care can maintain this grade.

Grade One:

Mild Tartar with or without Mild Gingivitis

Gums may appear inflamed and swollen. There is a small amount of tartar on the teeth. Routine dental scaling, polishing, and fluoride treatment of the teeth can reverse this grade.

Grade Two:

Moderate Tartar with Mild to Moderate Gingivitis

Gums appear inflamed. The mouth becomes painful and bad breath begins. There is a moderate amount of tartar on the teeth. Professional dental scaling, polishing, and fluoride treatment of the teeth can reverse this grade.

Grade Three:

Severe Tartar with Moderate to Severe Gingivitis and possible Periodontal disease

Gums now appear very red and bleeding may occur. Gums are now being destroyed by the infection and tartar. The painful mouth now starts affecting the eating habits and possibly the behavior of your pet. Bad breath gets worse. This is the beginning of periodontal disease which is not reversible. Professional dental scaling, polishing, and fluoride treatment of the teeth can prevent further destruction. In addition, periodontal treatment and/or extractions may be needed.

Grade Four:

Severe Tartar with Severe Gingivitis and Advanced Periodontal Disease

Gums are still very red and may have bleeding. Bacterial infection is now destroying the gums, teeth, and bones. Some research suggests that there is an increased risk for bacteria entering the blood stream at this point. These bacteria could potentially cause damage to the heart, liver, pancreas, and kidneys. At this stage, it is very painful to eat and possibility the behavior of your pet may be affected. Professional dental treatment is a must!! Treatment includes dental scaling, polishing, and fluoride treatment. In addition, periodontal treatment and/or extractions are needed.