Animals and Pet Care
Dental disease can be avoided
by Dr. Rod Jouppi, Walden Animal Clinic
Does your pet have bad breath or reddened gums? If so, it could be from gingivitis. Gingivitis occurs when soft plaque hardens into rough, irritating tartar. Tartar build-up on your pet's teeth can cause damage to the teeth and gums.
If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to an infection called periodontal disease. This disease can cause the loss of teeth.
You can prevent serious dental problems from happening by making sure your pet receives dental exams at the time of each vaccination, again at six months of age, and then annually. Annual exams should be scheduled at the time of booster vaccinations. Your veterinarian will then schedule your pet for an annual dental cleaning.
Your pet's dental cleaning will begin with a physical examination. This is important to evaluate your pet's general health. After the physical exam, your pet is given an injection; and then a gas anesthesia is administered for a safe and painless sleep during the dental cleaning.
The first part of dental cleaning requires the removal of tartar with a dental hand scaler.
Next, a periodontal probe checks for pockets under the gumline where periodontal disease and bad breath starts. A mechanical scaler is used to clean above the gumline while a curette cleans and smooths the teeth under the gumline in the crevice.
Your pet's teeth are polished, creating a smooth surface. The gums are washed with and antibacterial solution to help delay tartar build-up both under the gumline and on the crown of the tooth.
Finally, the veterinarian may find it necessary to take one or more x-rays to evaluate your pet's oral health. Some teeth may require extraction if badly infected but that is better than to leave them in the mouth to spread infection. The doctor also may administer a fluoride treatment to strengthen your pet's teeth, to desensitize exposed roots, and to decrease infection.
Dental care does not end with a visit to your veterinarian. You need to continue your veterinarian's good work at home. Brushing your pet's teeth is an important part of home dental care. Brushing breaks down the daily deposit of plaque before it hardens into tartar.
To begin a brushing routine, wrap a gauze square or wash cloth around your finger and use it like a toothbrush. Wipe all the teeth, front and back, with strokes from the gumline to the tip of the tooth. Do this once or twice a day for one to two weeks to familiarize your pet with having the gums and teeth rubbed.
You're now ready for a "soft" toothbrush. If your pet puts up a fuss, try dipping the toothbrush in warm water and garlic salt, for dogs, or tuna water, for cats. Your pet will love the taste and you'll have a better response to the toothbrush.
After your pet accepts the toothbrush, squeeze a small amount of special dog or cat toothpaste onto the brush. Never use human toothpaste as it will irritate the dog or cat's stomach and cause foaming at the mouth or vomiting.
Begin by brushing the front teeth. Then brush the large upper and lower teeth in the back. The bristles should be held at a 45 degree angle to the tooth surface and be moved in an oval direction. Be sure to scrub in the crevice where the gums meet the teeth as this is where odor and infection begin. Brush at least every three days; you cannot overdo this important health care step.
Home care can be improve by feeding your pet an unmoistened dry pet food and offering hard biscuits after each meal. Both dry food and hard biscuits produce abrasion to help keep plaque to a minimum on the crown of each tooth.
Give your pet complete dental care
Annual veterinary dental care and home dental care will help keep your pet's breath fresh and gums and teeth healthy. Your pet's smile and healthier life will be equaled by your smile and pride in a job well done.