Dentistry is a rapidly growing area of veterinary science. We have seen a greater awareness over the last 25 years of its importance to the overall health of the animals we treat.
Why are dental checks so important?
Just like humans, pets’ teeth need looking after too! The health of their teeth and gum's has a significant impact on their overall quality of life. Imagine how your mouth would feel, and smell, if you never brushed your teeth. Imagine having a really bad toothache and not being able to tell anyone about it!
Dental disease begins with a build up of bacteria in your pet’s mouth. Bacteria, combined with saliva and food debris, can cause plaque to accumulate on the tooth. As calcium salts are deposited, plaque turns to tartar (brown or yellow material starting near the gum line of the tooth). Without proper preventive or therapeutic care, plaque and tartar build-up leads to periodontal disease, which affects the tissues and structures supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease can cause oral pain, tooth loss and even heart or kidney problems.
Common signs of dental disease, in order of severity, include:
Yellow-brown tartar around the gumline
Inflamed, red gums
Change in eating or chewing habits (especially in cats)
Pawing at the face or mouth
Pain or bleeding when you touch the gums or mouth
Here at Kojonup Veterinary Clinic we offer FREE dental examinations, performed by our Veterinary Nurses. Our nurses are qualified to grade your pets teeth and stage of dental disease and make recommendations/advise consultation with one of our Veterinarians if your pet may need a professional dental or extraction.
If your pet is showing any of these signs we strongly recommend booking an appointment with one of our Veterinary staff as early assessment and action can save your pet's teeth!
What does a professional dental clean involve?
It is the same as a scale and polish done by a dentist for us. However, unlike us, our pets won’t sit still or open their mouth to allow a comprehensive cleaning of their teeth. For this reason our pets need to have a general anaesthetic for a professional dental clean. Your pet will need to be assessed by one of our veterinarians. The degree of dental disease will be assessed to determine if extractions, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will be required.
The assessment may also include a physical exam, blood tests and urine tests to ensure they are healthy prior to having an anaesthetic.
Once anaesthetised, a complete dental examination is carried out. This process involves charting all present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and any pockets in the gums around the teeth.
Our veterinarians will then remove the tartar above the gumline using a special ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for our teeth. The teeth are then polished using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste. If the dental disease is not severe, the procedure will end here. However, if certain teeth are so severely affected they cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary. In some cases, gum surgery is required to close the holes left behind when a tooth is extracted, and dissolvable stitches are used for this procedure.
Once all dental work is completed, your pet may be given an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection, the anaesthetic gas is turned off, and your pet is allowed to wake up. Pets are generally able to go home on the same day.
Following a professional dental clean, a plan needs to be implemented to minimise build up of tartar again, and will depend on the severity of your pet’s dental disease. This may involve regular tooth brushing, feeding raw meaty bones and/or a special diet. It is recommended that all pets be examined 6 months after dental cleaning to determine the effectiveness of your dental care routine.
When your pet goes home we will also discuss methods of reducing dental disease in the future.
How can I prevent dental disease?
Long-term control and prevention of dental disease requires regular home care. The best way to begin this is to accustom your pet from an early age. Dental home care may include:
Brushing teeth daily – just like us! This is the best form of dental hygiene. Pet toothbrushes and toothpaste are now available. Please do not use human toothpaste formulas on your pet as they are not designed to be swallowed and may be toxic.
Feed pets speical dental biscuits - which can help reduce the accumulation of tartar.
Use dental toys, enzymatic chews, or teeth cleaning chews - which may help keep the teeth clean.
- Regular and frequent attention to your pet's teeth may avoid the need for a professional dental clean under anaesthetic, and will also improve your pet's overall health.