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Do you know what it really entails to clean a pet’s teeth?

Please read all the way down. There is a video at the end of this article that demonstrates an actual teeth brushing on a dog.

Often, people hold off too long on caring for their pet’s teeth. Some of the most common reasons are:

• Cost of the Periodontal Therapy (anywhere from $300-$,1,000) or more!
• Unable to make time for appointment (simple as adjusting your work or home schedule for just one morning and one afternoon)
• Not educated in serious problems that can occur when you don’t care for your pet’s teeth!
Signs of Dental Disease include:
• Foul breath
• Drooling
• Chewing food on only one side of the mouth
• Pawing at mouth and/or rubbing face on floor or carpet
• Trying to bite when you touch around face (sign of pain)
• Always acting hungry (because they are unable to eat with bad teeth)
• Not wanting to eat (hurts to eat)
There are four stages of gum disease.

1. Stage 1- presents with reddened gingival tissues. This is the initial stage. Bad breath is one of the first signs.

Fractured Incisors (small front tooth next to long canine)
Plaque, Edema, Swelling and a fractured tooth broke off at the gum line

2. Stage II- presents as the early stage of gum disease. Signs include moderate reddening at the free gingival margin, edema, and plaque. Most animals are between the ages of one and four. Cats sometimes are affected later. With scaling, polishing and home care, this stage is usually curable.

3. Stage III- presents Established Periodontal Disease. This stage appears as edema, inflammation and the beginning of pocket formation. This marks the change from gingivitis which is reversible with treatment, to periodontitis which is controllable with therapy, but not curable. The patient presents with extremely strong “smelly breath”.

Gum loss, Plaque, Pus, Root exposure. Grade 4/4 periodontal disease

4. Stage IV- appears as severe inflammation (bleeding on contact), deep pockets, gum recession, bone loss, pustular discharge, and tooth mobility. The severe inflammation and pain in some cases causes the animals to rub their face, drop food while eating, and drool excessively. Although treatable, stage IV is not curable.

To clean the teeth:
Teeth cleaning is accomplished with the use of both hand scalers and ultrasonic power scalers. Both should be used. Hand instruments include scalers, curets, explores, and probes.

Steps of the Periodontal Therapy:
There are six steps to the Periodontal Therapy. 
The first step is the oral examination. Once your pet is under Anesthesia, he will be checked for facial swellings or unevenness, swollen lymph glands in the neck while comparing the size from the right to the left. Facial sides of the teeth and gums will be examined for discoloration, swelling and fractured teeth. Lastly, all of the teeth will be examined before scaling.

Abnormal Growth in gum tissue

The last part of the exam is charting all teeth for any abnormalities. All abnormal findings will be noted on your pet’s permanent dental record.
Charting any abnormalities
Scaling with a high powered ultra sonic scaler

Next is to grade the mobility of a tooth. Teeth are anchored in the jaw by the periodontal ligament. Unfortunately due to trauma or disease, teeth can become mobile.
 Grade I mobility- indicates slight movement up to 1 millimeter.

 Grade II mobility- indicates movement up to 2 millimeters.

 Grade III mobility-signifies movement of 3 millimeters or more.

Missing incisor, mis-directed front teeth, Tartar
At this time if there are suspicious teeth, they will need an X-Ray to determine if the tooth needs to be extracted. The Staff will also take before and after pictures for you. The doctor will determine the condition of the root and whether or not it is diseased and/or abcessed.

Oral Radiographs
X-Rays of upper back teeth in a dog

The second step is removal of tartar and calculus from the crown. This can be performed by either a hand scaler or a power scaler. The mechanical power scaler works by vibrations that knock off the calculus. The scaler is used with constant motion across the teeth.

The third step of the prophy is the removal of deposits below the gumline. This is also called sub gingival scaling and planing of the root surface. Hand curets are used for this procedure.

The fourth step of the is polishing the teeth. Scaling creates minute scratches on the enamel. If left untreated, these scratches attract plaque which can lead to early gingivitis. To remove these imperfections the teeth are polished with prophy paste. Polishers used to deliver paste to the teeth are electric slow speed or air driven slow speed. Polishing removes the rough tooth surfaces that were created by plaque and calculus as well as by the scaling procedure.

The purpose is to get the crown surface as smooth as possible so that plaque does not have gouges to build up tartar.

The fifth step is irrigation. The teeth and gingival sulci are flushed to remove debris from the prophylaxis procedure. This removes potentially harmful irritants from the gum pocket.

Flouride is administered to all teeth to help keep them strong. It is gently wiped off after one minute.

Applying Flouride with soft bristle toothbrush
The final step (sixth step)  is the post prophy exam and home care instructions. Home care includes those things the client does at home to provide preventative care. The main form of home care is daily brushing.
Home care instructions are essential for continued patient progress. Awareness, timely dental prophylaxis when needed, and home care contribute to longer lives for their pets and the better their pet’s breath will smell better!
I recommend "Greenies". I've used them for years and my dogs love them! You can find them at our Blog, on the Pet Product Tab. There is also pet friendly tooth paste that are in the top 5 for best products for pets.


Diet is also an important issue.
Harder foods tend to decrease the rate of plaque deposit in comparison to softer foods. Clients should be advised that some bones can be harmful. Chewing on bones can break teeth and cut into the gum tissue. Horse or cow hooves can create a “slab” fracture of the upper fourth premolar which can expose the pulp to infection and can require a root canal or extraction. Flat rawhide chews will not usually cause problems and compressed rawhide has been shown effective as well.
Scheduling the next appointment is essential to visit.
Dental care does not end once the teeth are cleaned. Long term dental programs are outlined individually by the veterinarian for each patient. Some animals need monthly rechecks while others without observable disease can be reexamined yearly.
Most middle aged dogs and cats should have a minimum of two per year.
Patients with grade IV periodontal disease need reexaminations every two or three months.
Grade I gingivitis cases are rechecked every six to twelve months.
Those patients with Grade II and III gingivitis can usually be reexamined every six months.
How about taking a minute to check your pet’s teeth? If you are unable to do this at home, make an appointment with your pet’s Veterinarian and let them do it for you.
Thank you for taking the time to care for your pet’s teeth and over all health!
Thank you for your continued Support of the Az Pet Professionals! Arizona's Preferred Network of Pet Professionals! From all of us! We work for YOU!
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