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Good dental care is an essential part of maintaining your pet's oral health, as well as their overall health. The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3, so it's never too early to take steps to prevent such disease. Periodontal disease is caused by the progressive inflammation of the structures of the tooth, through the accumulation of plaque and leading to the formation calculus (tartar). The build up of tartar can harbor bacteria that invades below the gumline, causing gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and can eventually affect the integrity of the tooth. When a tooth becomes loose due to the destruction of soft tissue and erosion of the bony socket, not only is it likely to be painful, it can also allow the accumulated bacteria to enter the bloodstream, affecting all other body systems, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys. For this reason, it is extremely important for your pets to get regular oral exams and not delay any dental work that your veterinarian recommends. Some pets are more prone to dental disease than others, especially small dogs and those breeds with brachiocephalic heads (i.e. pugs, bulldogs, etc.).
Brushing at Home
The very best way to take steps to avoid oral disease is to brush your pet's teeth at least three times a week. There are toothbrushes made especially for pets, although an extra soft child's toothbrush will work fine, and specially formulated toothpaste that is non-foaming and safe for pets to swallow. It may take some time for your pets to get used to teeth brushing, and it can be helpful to begin by rubbing their teeth with your finger or some gauze several times a week until they get used to the routine (be sure to reward them when they sit well for it), and eventually work your way up to brushing all their teeth with the toothbrush and paste.
Needless to say, we don't all have the time or patience necessary to brush our pets' teeth everyday, and some pets still accumulate tartar, even with consistent brushing. It is for these reasons that many pets require professional dental cleanings under general anesthesia. Pre-anesthetic blood work is recommended before any procedure requiring general anesthesia. Routine dental cleanings at Whitefish Animal Hospital include the use of ultrasonic scalers and hand tools to remove built up tartar, the polishing of each tooth to fill in grooves where plaque forms easily, and a fluoride gel treatment to protect the teeth. Our veterinarians also complete an extensive oral examination, locating any broken or diseased teeth that need to be extracted. It is important to remove such teeth right away to prevent further infection and/or pain. Finally, we have just installed a new digital dental x-ray machine, which will be used routinely during dental cleanings to more extensively screen for periodontal disease.
Please call 406-862-3178 anytime to make an appointment for a free dental evaluation and/or to have a technician work up an estimate for your pet's next dental cleaning.