Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets
Greater than 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 years have some form of dental disease.
Patricia Dominguez, LVT, VTS (Dentistry)
Licensed Veterinary Dental Specialist
Gotham Veterinary Center is offering free dental health consultations performed by our licensed dental specialist, Patricia Dominguez, LVT, VTS (Dentistry). Patricia will examine your pet, discuss any existing oral health problems, explain the available treatment options, and help you design an at-home dental care program.
Why should you worry about your pet's teeth?
It's as true for our pets as it is for us.
In human medicine, periodontal disease has been proven to be linked to many disease processes. Based on studies done by the American Veterinary Dental Society, 85% of adult pets have some stage of dental disease. The bacteria found in the plaque and tartar can also cause harmful effects to our pet's heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. If left untreated, this infection causing bacteria will lead to issues in the mouth like gingivitis, bleeding gums, excessive drooling, tooth decay, root infections, bone loss, abscesses, tooth mobility, and even tooth loss.
Almost all dogs and cats will continue to eat no matter what ailments they may be experiencing. This is true for one simple reason – the instinct of survival. To better relate, put yourself into their situation. Imagine if you were stuck on a deserted island with a broken or abscessed tooth. Would you stop eating? Certainly not! You would continue to eat, drink, breathe and live day to day. You would not be the healthiest or most comfortable person in the world, but you would learn how to live with it — and that is what our pets do. They learn how to live with it because they do not have a choice. They live in a world in which they cannot express themselves through words, but rather actions. So although they may not be able to tell us that one of their right lower molars is moving, they may instead choose to eat their food on the left side of their mouth. Still others may opt to swallow their food whole, shy away from dry food altogether, or simply prefer not to chew on their toys. It is up to you as a responsible pet parent to provide adequate medical attention, which includes proper dental care.
As with everything in life, preventative maintenance is much easier (and less expensive) than medical treatment. By doing regular home care and routine professional dental cleanings you can help prevent periodontal disease or diagnose it before it advances. This will save your pet from the pain and systemic harm dental disease can cause.
Develop an Oral Care Regimen at Home
Many veterinary dental approved products are available to help reduce plaque and tartar accumulation. The best way to keep your pet's teeth clean is by brushing daily with a pet toothpaste and toothbrush. Pet toothpastes come in flavors that your pet may find enjoyable such as chicken, beef, peanut butter, malt, seafood and vanilla. If your pet enjoys the flavor of the toothpaste then they will probably enjoy the brushing experience. Just like us and mint flavored toothpaste!
A Guide to Brushing Your Pet's Teeth
- The first thing you should do is find a flavor of toothpaste your pet will like. Put some on your finger, a treat or on a toy and offer it to your pet. This way your pet will get used to the flavor of the toothpaste and realize it can be a yummy reward.
- Next, put a little bit of the toothpaste on the toothbrush and let your pet lick it off. This will help them get used to the feeling of the bristles on their tongue, gums and teeth. They will slowly realize that even though the brush may feel different, it is nothing they have to be scared of.
- Once your pet is comfortable licking the toothpaste off of the toothbrush without hesitation, try brushing the front teeth in a circular motion.
- If your pet is comfortable having your fingers and toothbrush around their mouth, try brushing the teeth further to the back in a circular motion. Try to spend at least 30 seconds on each side. Don't worry about the inside of the teeth – most pets won't let you brush the inside.
- Use pet toothpaste, NOT human toothpaste as this can be harmful to your pet when swallowed.
- Use lots of positive reinforcement to make it an enjoyable experience for you and your pet.
- Put the toothpaste and toothbrush somewhere where you will see it every day — next to their food, next to the leash, or on the coffee table. That way it will become part of your daily routine.
- Go slow — every pet is different and will go through the steps at their own pace. Some will take a few days to get used to this new experience; some will take a few weeks. Stay committed, dedicated and patient.
If brushing your pet's teeth is not possible, or you want to incorporate different products into your home care regimen, then talk to your veterinary care professional about oral gels, barrier sealants, rinses, water additives, dental diets and dental chews. Make sure to discuss any new products with them before trying them on your pet. The Veterinary Oral Heath Council (VOHC) approves products that have been proven to fight plaque and tartar buildup. Look for the VOHC's seal of approval as a guide for products that have met their standards.
What does a professional dental involve and why is anesthesia necessary?
While we are strong advocates of home care and maintenance professional cleanings for prevention, there are instances when your pet may need a professional cleaning. In order for your pet to have a professional dental they must first have a recent exam and pre-anesthetic bloodwork to make sure they are good candidates for general anesthesia. General anesthesia is necessary to do a complete and safe job of removing the bacteria from all surfaces of the teeth. It is important to remove the bacteria from the subgingival spaces where periodontal disease begins. This is essential in providing the highest quality dental procedure. Proper anesthetic protocol gives us the ability to clean, examine and treat any affected teeth. Oxygen and a gas inhalant is delivered through a cuffed endotracheal tube to keep an open and protected airway. This allows us to scale and polish all surfaces of the teeth, both above and below the gumline. We are then able to perform a complete oral exam to uncover any abnormalities. This involves examining each individual tooth — cats have 30 teeth, dogs have 42. Every finding is charted into their permanent dental record. If abnormalities are found, digital dental radiographs are needed to properly evaluate the health of the tooth and root structures. Some conditions commonly found in the oral cavity are (but not limited to): loose teeth, missing teeth, retained baby teeth, fractured teeth, discolored teeth, worn teeth, rotated teeth, crowded teeth, gingival recession, exposed roots, abscessed roots, periodontal pockets, oral masses.
The dental specialist will meet with you after the procedure to discuss everything that was done and develop a home care regimen with you for your pet, as well provide you with any necessary pain medication or antibiotics.