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Dental Care of Dogs & Cats

                                                           Healthy Mouth = Healthier Life

Would you let years go by between visits to the dentist? Probably not! Your pet’s dental health is just as important to his or her overall health as your dental health is to your general health.,

Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care. In fact, a recent AAHA study showed that approximately two-thirds of pet owners do not provide the dental care that is recommended as essential by veterinarians. What’s more, the American Veterinary Dental Society reports that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. Dental disease doesn’t affect just the mouth. It can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease, which makes it all the more important that you provide your pets with proper dental care from the start.

"Without proper dental care, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three."

Bad breath of Dogs & Cats is not something to be ignored – it could be indicative of an oral problem, and the sooner you have it treated by your veterinarian (and learn to care for it yourself), the sooner you and your pet can smile proudly.

There are two critical components of your pet’s veterinary dental care: oral examinations and dental cleanings. Veterinary dental care begins at the puppy and kitten life stage. Veterinarians evaluate puppies and kittens for problems related to the deciduous (baby) teeth, missing or extra teeth, swellings and oral development. As your pet ages, your veterinarian will look for developmental anomalies, the accumulation of plaque and tartar, periodontal disease and oral tumors. Veterinarians can perform a basic oral examination on patients that are awake. However, a short-lasting anesthetic is required in order to provide a complete and thorough examination as well as dental cleanings.

Professional Dental Care Guidelines:

AAHA ( American Animal Hospital Association)  recommended  regular oral examinations and dental cleanings, under general anesthesia, for all adult dogs and cats. AAHA also recommends these procedures at least annually starting at one year of age for cats and small-breed dogs, and at two years of age for large-breed dogs.

Pre-anesthetic exam:

Whenever anesthesia is needed, special considerations are taken to help ensure the safety of your pet. Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your pet to make sure she’s healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Depending on your pet’s age and general physical condition, your veterinarian may also run blood, urine, electrocardiograph, and x-ray tests to check for any dangerous heart, kidney, or other conditions. Though there is some risk associated with any medical procedure, modern anesthesia is usually safe, even for older pets.

Anesthesia monitoring:

During anesthesia, the monitoring and recording of your pet’s vital signs (such as body temperature, heart rate, and respiration, as well as other important factors) is important. This helps ensure the safety of your pet while undergoing anesthesia.

Dental radiographs:  

Radiographs (x-rays) of the teeth are needed periodically in order to completely evaluate your pet’s oral health. X-rays aid the veterinarian greatly in detecting abnormalities that cannot be detected under examination alone. In some cases, x-rays can confirm the need for extraction of teeth that are loose or badly infected.

Scaling & Polishing:

Veterinarians are advised to use similar instruments as human dentists to remove plaque and calculus from your pet’s teeth. To smooth out any scratches in the tooth enamel, polishing with a special paste is also recommended.


The application of an anti-plaque substance, such as a fluoride treatment and/or a barrier sealant is also advised. This can help strengthen and desensitize teeth as well as decrease future plaque.

Home Dental Care:

Your pet’s dental care doesn’t rest with your veterinarian alone. As a pet owner, you play a pivotal role in helping ensure your pet’s dental health through regular teeth brushing.. Remember... pets can live longer, healthier lives if oral health care is managed and maintained throughout their lives. Ask us to develop a dental care plan for your furry friend.Dog_teeth_brushing

"Baby Teeth"

The teeth that are present around 6 weeks of age are not the permanent teeth the puppy will have as an adult. Like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth that develop during their lifetime. The first set of teeth, sometimes called “baby” teeth are also called deciduous teeth because these teeth are present early in life, and then are shed as the developing permanent teeth erupt into position. Deciduous teeth are typically lost or shed as the roots of these teeth are resorbed and the crown becomes loose. If the deciduous tooth is not shed in a timely manner, we refer to them as “retained”. Retained deciduous teeth should be removed, provided there is a permanent tooth to replace it.

Professional Teeth-Cleaning is 12 steps procedure:    

No other procedure performed on small animals does more to help patients than periodic teeth cleaning and after care. The dental visit for cleaning must be performed in a methodical manner. All twelve steps are important and interlinked. When one step is not performed, long term patient benefit suffers.

1. Oral examination on the un-anesthetized animal. Begin with the face. Check for swellings and painful areas. Look at the eyes, are they the same size? Is there swelling under one eye? Open and close the mouth to check for pain or crepitus in the temporo-mandibular (TMJ) joints. Examine the teeth and gums for pathology. Examine each tooth rather than the mouth globally. If there is even a small amount of tartar touching the gingiva this is disease and needs immediate removal.

2. Oral examination under general anesthesia. We examine individual teeth for mobility, fractures, malocclusion, and periodontal disease (probe for pocket depths after calculus is removed).

3. Supra-gingival (above the gum line) plaque and tartar removal using calculus removing forceps, hand instruments, and power scaling equipment.
Supra-gingival deposits are removed from buccal, lingual, and between surfaces of the teeth.

When used properly, the ultrasonic scaler removes plaque and tartar from the teeth. Heat generated by an ultrasonic scaler can cause severe damage to the tooth and periodontal support. Ultrasonic units must be used on crowns and exposed root surfaces only. The ability to remove tartar and potential damage by an ultrasonic scaler depends on power settings, time of exposure, amount of pressure applied, sharpness of the tip and experience of the professional.

Regardless of the type of power scaler, use a feather light touch, keeping the water-cooled tip moving in constant sweeping motion to avoid thermal injury. Use the side of the tip not the point to remove tartar.

4. Sub-gingival (below the gum line) scaling, curettage. Curettes are used to remove sub-gingival deposits. Root scaling: removal of plaque and calculus from the root surface.

  • The goal is to disorganize and lavage bacteria living sub-gingivally. This creates a healthier environment for healing and reattachment. Curettes or slim ultrasonic tips are used.
  • Sub-gingival Curettage is removal of the gingival pocket’s diseased soft tissue inner surface. The rationale for the procedure is to convert chronically inflamed ulcerated lesions in the soft tissue wall of a periodontal pocket, into a clean surgical wound. This promotes healing and re-adaptation of tissue to the tooth surface.maxigel_Rinse

5. Polishing. Regardless of how careful we are during the scaling/curettage phase of teeth cleaning, minor defects of the tooth surface occur. Polishing smoothes out the defects and removes plaque missed during previous steps.

Polishing paste is used on a polishing cup for the procedure.When polishing, use firm pressure until the cup edge flares. Overheating is prevented by relieving pressure slightly as the cup moves over each tooth.

6. Irrigation. With irrigation, diseased tissue and plaque are removed from the pocket or sulcus. Water spray and/or a 0.1-0.2% Chlorhexidine gluconate solution are commonly used.

7. Fluoride is placed on dry teeth and allowed to remain undisturbed for at least four minutes.

8. Post cleaning examination and diagnostics. After cleaning, teeth are examined individually via periodontal probing, compressed air application to the gingiva to examine for retained calculus, Shepherd’s hook exploration, and radiology (if indicated).

9. Charting. Record disease present before therapy. Charting must include missing, loose, fractured, and discolored teeth, as well as feline oral resorptive lesions, periodontal pocket depths, gingival recession, and other significant lesions.

10. Therapy to treat lesions noted above. After treatment records must include: Dental care performed, follow up recommendation, antibiotics dispensed, home care instructions.

11. Home care instructions.

The pet owner is an integral part of our pet health dental care team. The dental visit is not complete until discussion is held on maintaining and improving oral health. Home care is the single most important procedure the owner can do to maintain oral health. If performed regularly, daily brushing will dramatically increase the interval between teeth cleaning appointments.

t/d_DietFollow-up progress visits are as essential as any of the preceding steps.

The time between oral exams is based on the degree of disease and the client’s ability to provide home care. Some severe periodontal cases are rechecked monthly, while pets that have been treated for grade one  gingivitis, and their teeth brushed once or twice daily, can be rechecked every six months. The reminder interval for recheck can be linked to degree of periodontal disease in the computer.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Pet Dentistry

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