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Dental Care for Pets

Pets need proper dental care.

Based on information from a scientific study published in The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, eighty percent of pets have periodontal disease, with most of them showing signs of disease by the time they are two to three years old.

Periodontal diseases are infections of the periodontal ligaments that hold the teeth in place, alveolar bone surrounding the teeth, and/or gum disease. Without proper dental care, the risk of dogs and cats developing dental diseases, including periodontal disease, will increase.

Ignoring your pet's dental care for the first year of life would compare to waiting until your child is nine years old to begin dental care. Start training your puppies and kittens to allow you to examine their teeth and gums at a very early age so that dental care will be easier to perform. 

Dental disease can lead to organ damage.

Some dental diseases may lead to lung, kidney, and heart disease. Just as people require healthy teeth and gums for general good health, dogs and cats need appropriate dental care to remain healthy. When you ensure that your pets’ teeth are examined and cleaned when needed, you will help to keep your pets healthy.

Dental hygiene for pets should be performed daily.

Pets need daily dental care, just like people do. Daily brushing helps keep your pet healthy. My favorite toothpaste is made using coconut oil mixed with a few drops of New Zealand Deer Antler Velvet Oral Drops. I do not recommend the use of starch-based dental chews or water additives that may contain xylitol and other harmful chemicals. Many commercial pet toothpaste products contain unhealthy ingredients

Human dental products should never be used in pets. Human products contain ingredients that are not intended to be swallowed. Human products also commonly contain higher levels of salt which can be a problem.

You should also avoid using baking soda to clean your dog's teeth. Baking soda has a high alkaline content and, if swallowed, it can upset the acid balance in the stomach and digestive tract.

Pets need regular dental checkups.

Dogs and cats should be taken for oral examinations annually. Veterinary teams perform these exams. Six months is the right age for the first dental checkup. Small and medium-sized dogs usually have the most urgent dental needs and may need checkups more often.

Signs of dental disease are varied.

Signs that your pet is suffering from dental disease include bleeding from the mouth, tooth loss, halitosis (bad breath), weight loss, reduced appetite, and trouble chewing. An examination by a veterinarian is the only way to know if regular cleaning is enough, or if your pet will need a more invasive dental procedure, such as root canal or dental extraction.

Dental cleaning includes polishing and scaling.

Many dogs and cats need once-per-year tooth cleaning. Some pets need their teeth cleaned more often. This type of dental care involves scaling and polishing. The teeth are scaled to remove plaque and tartar. Scaling eliminates build-up on the crowns of teeth, which are the visible parts of canine teeth, but will also include probing along the gum line and pockets around the teeth where the gums may be receded. These pockets can allow food to accumulate, resulting in dental decay if not properly cared for. The tartar below the gum line causes the most significant periodontal disease, so it is important that it be thoroughly removed.

When periodontal disease is advanced, it may not be possible to save the badly affected teeth, which may need to be extracted. Dental radiographs will be required to determine the health of the roots of the teeth and surrounding bone.

Anesthetic use is required to perform thorough cleaning and examination.

This type of cleaning requires anesthesia. A preanesthetic physical exam, along with pre-operative lab work, should be performed to make sure your pet is healthy enough to be anesthetized. 

I do not recommend non-anesthetic dental cleaning, as this is mostly a cosmetic procedure to remove plaque and tartar above the gum line. Plaque and tartar below the gum line will continue to accumulate and lead to advanced periodontal disease. Dental radiographs cannot be performed; deep cleaning of dental pockets may be painful for the awake patient. Extractions should not be performed in patients without sedation and pain relief.

Oral surgery may be necessary.

Dental exams and cleanings may reveal problems that necessitate oral surgery. One form of dental surgery is tooth extraction. Usually, extractions are necessary due to fractures or chips that expose the pulp cavities which can lead to pain and infection. Abscesses, periodontal disease, and dental cavities may also require oral surgery. Once teeth are extracted, sockets are stitched closed with dissolvable sutures. Advanced procedures such as root canals and tooth restoration can also be performed at specialty veterinary dental centers.

Daily dental care is a life-long commitment.

Good dental care helps pets to survive and thrive. Whether you use water or food additives, sprays, rinses, or perform daily brushing, it is imperative to continually monitor your pet's dental health while providing good dental hygiene.

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