Periodontal Disease is an inflammatory condition involving some or all of a tooth’s supporting structures. This condition plagues 80% of dogs and 50 % of cats by the time they are three years of age. Once your pet has periodontal disease, it is irreversible. Fortunately for pets and their owners, periodontal disease is entirely preventable with proper pet dental care.
Pet Dentistry: Ask Your Veterinarian How You Can Prevent or Slow down Periodontal Disease
The most obvious warning sign that your pet may be suffering from this condition is a “foul or fetid” odor to its breath. Dogs and cats are not the best communicators when it comes to tooth pain. However, they often give us clues. Some of the more subtle signs of severe dental disease include the following:
• Less playful with a chew or tug toys – dogs
• Rubbing their mouth or face with paws
• Decreased interest in hard food, but eagerly eating soft food
• Bad breath
• Brown or discolored teeth
• Bleeding or dark red gums
• Bumps in mouth
• Making noise when yawning or chewing
• Missing or loose teeth
If you notice any of the above in your pet, please call for an appointment and have a veterinarian evaluate your pet.
Without regular dental care, food particles and associated bacteria build up at the gum-line of the animal’s teeth. This build-up is called plaque. Over time this accumulation is combined with saliva and natural minerals, forming calculus (tartar). The presence of plaque and calculus/tartar results in inflammation to the gums called gingivitis. Gingivitis is a reversible condition un-like periodontal disease.
The presence of periodontal disease not only results in pain/discomfort in the mouth and eventual tooth loss but is also responsible for a number of other oral problems. Another alarming consequence of periodontal disease is possible internal organ damage involving the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Professional Prevention Includes Regular Dental Cleanings for Your Pet
Dental cleanings also referred to as dental prophylaxis, are necessary for the prevention of periodontal disease. During this procedure, a certified veterinary technician will conduct a general inspection to look for any wounds or growths on the lips, tongue, and throughout the entire mouth. They will also take x-rays to determine the current condition of your pet’s teeth and the underlying roots. The technician will then use an ultrasonic periodontal scaler to remove accumulated plaque, and tartar/calculus build up from the crown of the teeth and under the gum line.
A veterinarian will then review the x-rays and repeat an oral exam using a periodontal probe to check the depth of the gum tissue attachment, denoting the presence and/or degree of periodontal disease. Additionally, the overall health of the teeth, the presence of oral disease, tooth /crown fractures, and any infection or abscesses will be noted.
Once medical treatment is addressed, the veterinary technician will then polish the teeth. This treatment gives the teeth a smooth surface, making it more difficult for bacteria and food particles to stick to the teeth in the future, thus reducing plaque and calculus formation. Additionally, to help prevent plaque and tartar reformation, a bioactive polymer called SANOS can be applied to the base of the teeth at the gum line. For maximum benefit, the pet should have daily home dental care sessions, and the product should be applied to the teeth every six months
Dental prophylaxis should be conducted at least once per year in most pets. For pets with known periodontal disease, pets that home dental care is not done or impossible, or those pets that have SANOS applied, it should be done every six months.
To perform thorough dental prophylaxis, general anesthesia is required during the procedure. The anesthesia not only keeps the patient immobile, but it also allows your pet to receive pain and stress-free care and enables the veterinarian to treat any identified problems immediately and effectively.
Prescreening tests are a necessary prior to dental prophylaxis. Preliminary blood work along with a physical exam can identify any underlying medical issues your pet may have and help tailor an anesthetic protocol. Standard tests include a CBC (complete blood count), Chemistry panel – evaluating the kidneys, liver, glucose level, electrolytes, protein levels, etc.; occasionally chest x-rays, thyroid testing and /or urinalysis testing may be performed.
Like in humans, regular home dental care is essential to dental and oral health. Tooth brushing prevents the build-up of plaque on the crown of the tooth. We recommend daily brushing of your pets’ teeth, using a VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) approved pet toothpaste such as Pet Smile. Human toothpaste should never be used on an animal as they contain ingredients that can be harmful if swallowed.
For a rare few pets, home health care brushing is not possible. For these pets, there are some alternatives such as a water additive, some “food” sprinkles, as well as some prescription diet foods that act as edible “toothbrushes”. For those owners opting to use additional or supplemental oral health care products, the VOHC has a list of approved veterinary oral health care products including foods, treats, and chews that have shown efficacy in testing to help reduce plaque and tartar. Here is a link to the website www.vohc.org and check the accepted products lists; there is one for dogs and cats.
If you are unsure of what your pets’ dental status is or need help picking a dental product or discussing how to begin home dental care or brushing your pets’ teeth, contact Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital & Exotic Care, Inc. for help!