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An important part of our pets' health is oral and dental health and hygiene. Since they don't brush their own teeth, pets' teeth will accumulate plaque and tartar. Many pets between 3 and 5 years of age have accumulated enough tartar on their teeth that they need to be cleaned. Most older pets will have advanced tartar buildup and some degree of gum disease.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. That is exactly why it is so important to get your pet in for routine exams, to keep an eye on tartar build up and hopefully work on prevention. Rather than waiting too long then having to deal with treatments, some cases in which the damage may be irreversible.


Slab fracture of right upper fourth premolar

The teeth of dogs and cats are relatively tough and not easily damaged. The gums, however, are damaged by the tartar and plaque which clings to the tooth surface. The tartar and plaque causes inflammation and infection of the gums and erosion of the root support structure of the tooth. During dentistry on pets with advanced dental disease, perfectly normal teeth must often be extracted because the root structure has failed.

A more serious consequence of dental disease occurs when the infection that is always present with heavy tartar buildup and inflamed gums spreads by way of the bloodstream to other body organs such as the heart, lungs or brain.


                  The Patient

Obviously, it is important to prevent conditions from ever reaching this point. This is done through good oral hygiene and periodic dental cleaning.

By necessity, dental cleaning in our pets must be done under general anesthesia. Unfortunately, we have not yet figured out how to get dogs or cats to sit in a dental chair with their mouths open while we clean their teeth. The prospect of general anesthesia makes many clients nervous, especially with older pets, but if proper precautions are taken, the risk of any anesthetic procedure should be minimal. In the case of dental disease, the risk of anesthesia is certainly less than the risk of not treating the problem.

To insure safety, all pets should have a pre-anesthetic blood profile run first. This can be done on the day of the procedure in the hospital laboratory. Older pets should have a more comprehensive blood profile run. The blood tests will determine before the procedure is done that no underlying problems such as kidney or liver disease are present. Problems such as these need to be addressed before the procedure is begun.

All pets should also have an intravenous catheter placed and intravenous fluids run during the procedure. This helps to maintain blood pressure and kidney function.

Dentistry should be done under isofluorane or Sevoflo anesthesia, which are currently the safest types available. They produce a quick recovery which is important since dental patients typically go home the same day.


   Technician cleaning teeth

It is also important to dispense an antibiotic after the dentistry which will clear up any remaining bacterial infection in the mouth and reduce the possibility of infection spreading from the mouth to other body organs. One good antibiotic for this purpose is called Clavamox.


Before After

Now, unfortunately, sometimes if you wait too long to have your pets' teeth examined, too much time may have passed, which may have caused irreversible damage. When the time comes to finally have a dental cleaning done, your pet may have to undergo a series of dental x-rays and extractions, depending on the severity, of course. Although you may think that having teeth extracted would minimize your pet's overall quality of life, this is not the case. Yes, they will have missing teeth; some pets may have to lose all their teeth or at least the majority, but they will still go on to live a very normal life with less pain and overall better health. Unlike people, pets have a great ability to adapt fairly quickly to new obstacles. Leaving infected/ rotten teeth in, increases the chances of spreading infection through the body, if it hasn't happened already, so if need be, please make the wise and appropriate decision for your pet. Schedule a dental examination today!

If any teeth are extracted, the mouth may be tender for a few days. It is a good idea in that case to feed a softer diet at first. In any case, feeding on the day of the dentistry procedure should be kept to a minimum. This is because even though fully alert, pets are still under the influence of the anesthetic agent and may have difficulty swallowing or even vomit or regurgitate their food. We also send home pain medication, already included in our dental cleaning package, to add a boost to a happy recovery!

After the dentistry, there are several methods that may be used to slow down the buildup of plaque and tartar and therefore lessen the frequency of dental cleanings:


Small toothbrushes and finger brushes are available to make your job easier. Flavored toothpastes make it more pleasant for your pet. For best results, teeth should be brushed once a day. Reward your pet after every brushing session; even if you might not get to the brushing, start slow with letting them taste the toothpaste. Then let them get used to having the toothbrush in their mouth, practice with finger brushes, they work great! After a while, if you continue to practice every day, it won't be long until your pets' teeth look brand new!

2. Hill's t/d Prescription Diet

Now available for cats as well as dogs (regular size and small bites), Prescription Diet T/D is a tartar control diet that very effectively reduces tartar and plaque buildup. It really works!

(Not sold in commercial pet stores, only available for sale by a Veterinarian)

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