Do not under estimate the importance of your pet's dental care. Dental disease affects the entire body... it is not just bad breath and dirty teeth. Many people adopt the attitude of "out of sight, out of mind".
If you care for your companion then take care of his/her teeth today... and everyday.
Most animals start off life with healthy teeth and gums. Their breath is fresh, the gums are a healthy even pink and the teeth are shiny and white. Sometime within the first two or three years of life changes become apparent. The breath starts to "smell", the gums have a red line where they meet the teeth and the teeth develop a brownish deposit. This is no longer a healthy mouth. Without intervention this condition progresses. The brownish deposit is called tartar (calculus). It starts as plaque... the soft mushy stuff we see adhering to teeth. Particles of food, especially soft food, mixed with harmful bacteria are the basis of plaque. It is not just on the teeth but under the gum line. Plaque can be removed with careful brushing on a regular basis. If left in place this plaque becomes mineralized from the components of saliva, this is what we call tartar. Tartar is very hard and cannot be brushed away once solidified.
As tartar builds up periodontal disease progresses. The space, sulcus, between the gum and the tooth becomes filled with this bacteria rich mixture. It wedges in and breaks down the attachment between the tooth and the boney socket. The gums become infected and the tooth loosens.
This process is detrimental to the entire body. The infected gums are inflamed and often bleed. Bacteria from the plaque and tartar can get into the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. The heart valves, kidneys and other organs can become infected by these pathogenic organisms.
Dental disease is a major threat to the overall wellness of your pet. Dental disease is avoidable through diligent dental hygiene practices and treatment of periodontal disease.
A Healthy Mouth: Fresh breath, pink gums and white teeth.
Early Gingivitis: Mouth odor, thin line of redness along gum and brownish deposit on teeth. The sulcus is deeper. This is early periodontal disease and requires intervention.
Moderate Periodontal Disease: This mouth is diseased. The breath is foul, the gums are red and bleeding and the teeth are embedded in tartar. This is a painful mouth. At this stage the teeth and gums can still be salvaged with professional treatment and home support.
Severe Periodontal Disease: When periodontal pockets are this deep the tooth cannot be saved. However, the mouth can be made comfortable and the infection can be controlled.
PREVENTING DENTAL DISEASE
Dental disease can be prevented. . Excellent dental hygiene and routine prophylactic care can keep a mouth healthy throughout an animals lifespan.
Brushing your pet's teeth on a daily basis helps remove soft plaque before it becomes mineralized and hard. It is important to use special pet toothpaste as human type paste can be harmful if swallowed on an ongoing basis. Specially designed toothbrushes and finger brushes are available to make brushing more comfortable for you and your pet. Some people use bandaging gauze wrapped around a finger for rubbing teeth and gums. It is important to start gradually with lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Once a routine is established it is easy to maintain.
If your pet objects strongly to brushing do not force the issue! There are other options. Dental chews that have a special enzyme action help work plaque off the teeth and gum line. Rope toys and dental kongs are tooth friendly toys that can make brushing fun. Hills Prescription Diets have a Tooth Diet, "TD", that helps remove plaque and retards its accumulation. However, before using chews or dental diets make sure they are suitable for your pets overall dietary needs... some pets have more than one problem to consider.
Professional care plays a major role in the maintenance of dental health AND the alleviation of existing dental disease. Even with thorough brushing calculus will develop over time. In order to properly assess the teeth and gums, remove calculus deposits, clean the sulcus and tooth roots, polish and apply fluoride, and if necessary extract a tooth general anesthesia is required. A full physical examination should take place prior to any general anesthesia. Blood tests and radiographs may be necessary in order to properly assess your pets state of wellness. The information gathered in the pre anesthetic period helps the veterinarian assess your pets anesthetic risk level. It helps reduce anesthetic risk by allowing the veterinarian to choose the safest anesthetic protocol for your pet... each animal has individual problems and thus individual requirements. If an animal is deemed high risk the anesthetic will be provided by a Board Certified Veterinary Anesthetist. In addition if there is evidence of gross infection a antibiotic will be chosen for administration prior to the dental procedure. When infected gums are worked on there is an increased chance of dislodging bacteria into the blood stream. The antibiotic will be continued at home for a few days after the treatment.
Your veterinarian will ask that animals be food fasted but allowed access to water before being admitted for general anesthesia. Once admitted they are given a Pre Anesthetic injection to help them relax, control discomfort and increase safety during the induction of anesthesia. Anesthesia is induced, a breathing tube is inserted and monitoring devices are put in place. It is important to monitor an animal during anesthesia so that the anesthetic can be altered to match the animals requirements moment by moment. Your Veterinarian and a Certified Animal Health Technician monitor the pets in order to assure each patients safety.
A scaler is used to remove the heavier deposits of external tartar. Once this is accomplished the mouth is thoroughly examined. Any teeth that are loose with frank pus in the sulcus will be extracted at this time. If there is loss of root attachment over one-half the tooth root length then it is unlikely the tooth will be salvageable.
At this point the dental work that is visible to the eye is complete. However it is just the beginning of a thorough dental prophy.
Root planning is a very important aspect of cleaning teeth. This is when the area beneath the gum line is scraped clean. This is where pockets of bacteria can be left behind to grow and flourish. Thorough root planning combined with appropriate antibiotic therapy helps to slow the recurrence of periodontal disease.
Ultrasonic scaling leaves minute scratches on the tooth surface. These scratches can serve as a place for plaque to cling to. Because of this they must be smoothed out. This done with a dental polisher. The polishing paste, prophy paste, usually contains fluoride which also helps maintain the tooth surface.
Analgesic medications are administered to animals that have had extractions or extensive root planning. The recovery period is closely monitored. Most animals are able to go home the same day.
The interval between professional dental procedures varies from animal to animal. With careful brushing and early professional intervention, periodontal disease can be kept under control. By initiating affirmative action at the Early Gingivitis Stage the more advanced stages of periodontal disease can be avoided. However, if periodontal disease is left to become advanced, the interval between prophylactic procedures required to maintain a healthy mouth will become shorter.
The best way to deal with periodontal disease is to not let it develop in the first place!