Dental Care

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Your Pet’s Dental Health

“Dog breath” is not normal. At Adams Veterinary Clinic, we are committed to preventing and treating periodontal disease. As part of your pet’s regular examination, your veterinarian will perform a comprehensive oral exam. Based on the size, age, breed, and health of your pet, the doctor will make recommendations for appropriate pet dental care and oral health at that time.

The oral and dental health of all animals, whether large or small, is critical. Studies have estimated that by 3 years of age, over 80% of dogs and cats have periodontal disease. Research has shown that bacteria from the mouth can result in disease in other organs of the body, primarily the kidneys, heart, and liver.

Here are some frequently asked questions:

When should dental care start with my pet?

The earlier the better. With puppies and kittens, our doctors will be on the lookout for retained deciduous teeth and malocclusion (bad bite) problems. We will also teach you how to care for your pet’s teeth and gums at home. Annual comprehensive oral exams by our doctors are very important for early detection of periodontal disease.

How can I tell if my pet has dental problem?

Bad breath is often a first indicator of dental disease. Gently lift the lips and check for tartar, inflamed gums, or missing/broken teeth. Cats may exhibit increased drooling. Both cats and dogs can exhibit reluctance to eat or play with toys, “chattering” of the teeth when trying to eat, lethargy, bleeding gums, eroded teeth, and failing to groom (cats). Dental disease progresses in stages — if caught early, you can prevent further damage and save as many teeth as possible.

Are some breeds at greater risk than others?

Small/toy breeds are at greater risk of periodontal disease because their teeth are often crowded together and some breeds are genetically predisposed to malocclusion (bad bite) problems. This results in an increased accumulation of plaque because the normal cleansing mechanisms are hindered.

How is the rest of your pet’s body affected by bad teeth?

Infected gums and teeth aren’t just a problem in the mouth — the heart, kidneys, liver, intestinal tract, and joints may also be infected. The tartar and any infected areas of the mouth contain a multitude of bacteria than can ‘seed’ to other parts of the body. With regular dental care, you can prevent some of these more serious side effects.

Where should I start?

Our doctors will talk to you during your pet’s exam about how to initiate a good dental care program at home. Your pet should receive an annual comprehensive exam from our doctors. If a dental cleaning is needed, pre-anesthesia blood work is required to make sure your pet does not have any underlying medical problems. With good dental care, your pet can enjoy a long and healthy life.

My pet needs a dental cleaning — what is involved with that?

As mentioned above, pre-dental blood work is required. This is a check on the overall health of the pet to make sure that liver, kidneys, and blood counts are within normal ranges and to reduce any risks possible prior to the anesthesia. Many pets with bad teeth will be put on an antibiotic a few days prior to the dental to calm the infection and reduce possibility of complications.

Your pet will fast the evening before for the anesthesia. While under anesthesia, a veterinary assistant continually monitors your pet’s vital signs, including his breathing, oxygen levels, blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and heart rhythm.

The dental procedure is similar to a human dental cleaning – tartar removal, checking for cavities, gingival (gum) pockets, loose teeth, any growths on the gums or palate, removal of diseased teeth, and finally, polishing. The polishing is to smooth the tooth after tartar removal, as the tartar pits the tooth. A smooth tooth will not encourage tartar formation as easily as a roughened tooth.

Dental veterinary services include:

  • Routine prophylaxis removes the plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. We polish the teeth, probing and exploring for periodontal disease and chart these findings.
  • Dental extractions remove teeth that are causing chronic pain or harboring harmful bacteria and disease.
  • Periodontal therapy treats the gums and underlying tissues for periodontal disease caused by bacteria. Gingivitis and periodontal disease are reversible. When periodontal disease is detected and treated early, your pet avoids greater problems.
  • Local nerve blocks and systemic pain medication help reduce the discomfort associated with some dental procedures such as extractions.
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