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National Pet Dental Awareness Month

February is National Pet Dental Awareness Month

Dental Disease is not pretty! 

All images used are courtesy of Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic, our San Tan Valley Veterinarians, with the pet owner's permission.
Feline Oral Growth of the
lower jaw
Severe canine periodontal disease
of the upper left mouth
Painful Oral Lesions 
Severe Calculus, Swelling, Loose Teeth
of the lower jaw of a dog
Serious Periodontal Disease
of the lower canine mouth

Many times pet owners wait too long to address their pet’s oral health. Most of the time it’s neglected until the pet owner simply cannot stand the mouth smell anymore! Can you imagine having to live with a mouth that looked like one above?

Below are some of the most common reasons pet owners wait until last minute to address their pet’s dental disease:

· Cost of the entire dental or periodontal procedure ($400-$,1,200 or higher)

· Unable to make time for an appointment (Yes, we are all busy, but………)

· Not thoroughly educated in serious problems that can occur when you don’t care for your pet’s teeth! This is just a simple fact! Not all pet owners look inside their pet’s mouth!

Below are some common signs of dental disease:

· Foul breath

· Drooling with or without blood tinged saliva

· 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. Your veterinarian should include an oral examination each and every time your pet comes in for an appointment.

2. Stage II- presents as the early stage of gum disease. Signs include moderate reddening of the gums, swelling and some tartar. 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 swelling, inflammation and the beginning of pocket formation around teeth. 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.”

4. Stage IV- appears as severe inflammation of the gums (bleeding on contact), deep pockets around the teeth, 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.

Teeth cleaning:

Teeth cleaning is accomplished with the use of both hand scalers and high speed ultrasonic power scalers. Both should be used. Hand instruments include scalers, curets, explores, and probes that check for abnormalities and periodontal pockets.

There are several steps to a complete dental procedure.

Step One is the oral examination.
Once under general anesthesia your pet will be checked for facial swellings, unevenness, swollen lymph glands, discoloration, and any fractured teeth. All abnormal findings will be noted on your pet’s permanent dental record.

Checking the mobility of the teeth is also part of the oral examination.
Teeth are anchored in the jaw by the periodontal ligament. Unfortunately due to trauma or disease, teeth can become mobile which can cause great pain for your pet.

Ÿ Grade I mobility- indicates slight movement up to 1 millimeter.

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

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

Step Two is the mechanical and manual removal of tartar and calculus from the crown or (above the gumline.) This is performed by both a hand scaler and a high power electrical scaler (Ultra Sonic.) The high speed ultrasonic scaler works by vibrating the calculus off the tooth.The scaler is used with constant motion across the teeth.

Step Three of the prophy is the removal of deposits below the gumline or sub-gingival. 

Full Mouth X-Rays
This shows the disease process below the gums where we can’t see! It shows the health or disease of each tooth at the root tip. This is very important for all dental procedures so disease processes under the gum line are not missed!

For teeth to be extracted the Veterinarian is the only person qualified to do so. Teeth extractions are much more difficult than people understand. The roots of the teeth are embedded in the jaw bone. The teeth are extracted using a high speed electrical drill and elevators. It’s not as easy as tying a string around the tooth and slamming the door shut!

The fourth step of the complete prophy is post extraction X-Rays and polishing the teeth. Scaling creates minute scratches or divots on the enamel. If left untreated the small divots attract plaque which can lead to early gingivitis. Polishers used to deliver paste to the teeth are electric slow speed or air driven slow speed.  

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.

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!

Diet is also an important issue for dental care.
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, deer antlers, can all cause fractured teeth.

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 should be re-examinations every 3-6 months.

Appropriately created at the beginning of the year, National Pet Dental Health Month gives you a great start to a new year on taking care of your pet’s teeth!

Thank you pet parents! Call one of our Veterinary Clinics to schedule your pet's dental exam now!

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