Dental Care for Your Pet
Possible signs that your pet is in need of dental care:
- Bad Breath
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Reddened gums
- Dropping food when eating
- Pawing at face
- Shying away when face or head is petted
- Bleeding from mouth
- Occasional unexplained behavioral changes
- Loss of appetite
- Refusing to chew on toys
- Refusing to drink cold water
- Refusing to eat hard food
80% of dogs and 70% of cats over age 3 have some form of oral disease. Your pet’s teeth should be brushed regularly to avoid gum disease. But even with regular brushing, it is necessary to have their teeth cleaned (scaled and polished) from time to time.
What are the changes seen with dental disease?
The process starts when soft plaque hardens into rough tartar. Tartar irritates and inflames the gums. This is a condition called gingivitis. Gingivitis, in turn, can lead to an infection called periodontal disease, which can cause bleeding gums, loss of teeth, and infection in the heart or kidneys if it is left untreated. Gingivitis and periodontitis also make it painful to eat, therefore, your pet could lose weight or even become anorexic. There are not always obvious physical signs of the disease, even when it is advanced. That is why it is so important to have your pet’s teeth checked regularly by your veterinarian.
Here’s what to expect during a dental procedure at Atlanta West Veterinary Hospital:
Because it is necessary to use general anesthesia while cleaning your pet’s teeth, the process begins with a physical examination. Your pet’s general health must be evaluated before anesthesia is administered to ensure that he/she is not put at risk.
- A thorough exam is performed.
- Pre-operative blood work, x-rays or ultrasound may need to be done.
- A hand scaler is used to remove tartar from crevices and underneath the gum line. Other tools are used to finish cleaning above and below the gum line.
- Your pet’s teeth are polished to smooth out scratches in the enamel.
- Your pet’s gums are washed with an antibacterial solution to help delay tartar buildup both above and below the gum line and to decrease chance of infection.
- Your pet may receive a fluoride treatment to strengthen his teeth and to desensitize exposed roots.
- Some teeth may require extraction if they are loose or badly infected.
- The patient is monitored by a technician throughout the procedure and pain is managed appropriately.
On admission you will be told when to call for an update on the condition of your pet and to find out what time he/she can be released from the hospital. After the dental procedure it will be up to you to do daily home care to ensure your pet has a healthy and comfortable mouth.
Instructions for brushing your pet’s teeth
It is important to establish a pleasant routine for you and your pet. Start your home dental care program slowly and pick a time when you are both relaxed. Do not push to the point of agitation. Begin by simply handling your pet’s mouth for several minutes a day, go slowly, be affectionate and possibly use a treat as a reward.
Start by just handling the face, then the lips, and soon you will be able to rub the teeth and gums with your finger. Try a few drops of water flavored with garlic. Cats may prefer tuna juice. Using a soft pediatric toothbrush, brush the teeth. Use the flavored water, tuna juice or animal toothpaste. Concentrate primarily on the lip and cheek side of the teeth. Brush gently in a circular motion, holding the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle. Increase the number of teeth brushed each time until your pet accepts the routine willingly.
Stage 1: Early Gingivitis
Stage 2: Advanced Gingivitis
Stage 3: Early Periondontitis
Stage 4: Established Periodontitis