February is National Pet Dental Health Month! There's no better time to bring awareness to your pet's oral hygiene.
So lets talk teeth! Did you know that by the age of 2 nearly 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal (gum) disease? This infection is caused by a build-up of plaque on the surfaces of the teeth and at the gum line. Bacteria found in this plaque irritates the gums if allowed to accumulate. This can lead to infections in the bone surrounding the teeth. Hard dental tartar is made of calcium salts from saliva deposited on plaque. Within a few days tartar will begin to form on a tooth not kept clean, creating a rough surface. This enhances further plaque build up.
Once it has begun to form, tartar is very difficult to remove without dental instruments.
As you would imagine periodontal disease can lead to some pretty bad breath! But oral hygiene, if ignored, can actually have a direct effect on your pet's overall health as well. Infected areas of the mouth contain bacteria that can spread throughout the bloodstream to other areas of the body including the kidneys, liver, and heart. Chronic infection can also lead to bone loss surrounding the teeth.
But never fear, there are ways to keep your pets smiling brightly! Like grooming and exercise, dental care should become a routine that you and your pet stick to. Regular brushing (with a toothbrush and toothpaste made specifically for pets), routine oral exams by you and your veterinarian, and regular dental cleanings can keep your pet's smile healthy.
There are also specific dental diets and chews that help aid in the prevention of dental disease. Ask your veterinarian if these might be right for your pet.
Why Anesthesia Free Dentals Aren't Better For Your Pet
"My veterinarian said my pet needs a dental cleaning with general anesthesia. Wouldn't it be safer for my pet to do an anesthesia free dental?"
The American Animal Hospital Association guidelines state that "general anesthesia with intubation is necessary to properly assess and treat the companion animal dental patient". Without anesthesia, veterinarians can only clean the exposed portion of the teeth which is more cosmetic than therapeutic.
It is natural to be wary of putting your beloved pet under anesthesia as there are inherent risks. However, modern anesthetic and patient evaluation techniques used by your veterinarian minimize the risks and each anesthetic procedure can be tailored to your pet's specific needs.
The following are reasons why anesthesia-free dentals are not recommended:
- Only under anesthesia can the veterinary team to do a complete oral exam on your pet. It allows access to the entire mouth and lets us see areas that wouldn't be accessible on an awake patient.
- Only under anesthesia can we place an endotracheal tube which provides 3 important advantages - patient cooperation, elimination of pain resulting from treatment, and protection of the airway and lungs from accidental aspiration.
- Only under anesthesia are we able to take full mouth x-rays. 70% of your pet's dental pathology lies below the gum line and is not able to be evaluated in an awake patient. Cleaning just the visible surfaces of the teeth gives a false sense of accomplishment.
- Only under anesthesia can we thoroughly and humanely remove dental tartar which is firmly attached to the teeth, both below and above the gum line. The most important part of scaling is to scale the tooth surfaces that are within the subgingival space between the gum and the tooth root. Scaling to remove tartar is done with an ultrasonic scaler and hand instruments with sharp edges. Slight head movement could result in injury to the gum tissue. After scaling each tooth is also polished both above and below the gum line.
Please call your veterinarian find out more information about dental procedures or to schedule your pets oral exam today.