With people, it is easy to see when our teeth hurt since we are vocal with dental pain. In contrast, dogs and cats hide their pain, performing their regular activities despite underlying issues. Neat fact, adult dogs have 42 adult teeth, while cats have 30. Our goal is to keep these numbers the same throughout their adult life.
Every year at their annual physical exam, we look at your pet’s teeth for tartar, gingivitis, cracked teeth, or poorly aligned teeth, just to name a few items. Just as you and I need to have our teeth cleaned at the dentist, our pets need this same treatment. Smaller breed dogs such as Yorkies, Shih Tzus, and Maltese seem more susceptible to accumulating tartar on their teeth. Dogs with short noses, such as Boston Terriers and Pugs, have a large number of teeth fitting into a small area, which leads to mal-alignment of teeth, leading to dental disease. Certain cats, and specific breeds of cats such as Maine Coons, can also develop chronic dental disease.
How can we prevent dental disease? Just like us, our pets should have their teeth brushed every day. There are some great animal toothpastes on the market in various flavours, which they tend to love! For toothbrushes, you can use a soft child’s toothbrush, a finger toothbrush from a pet store, or even a damp washcloth. Tooth brushing is the best method to prevent plaque and tartar from accumulating on teeth, but it needs to be done as often as possible to be effective. When you brush your teeth at night, brush your dog or cat’s teeth as well!
What is involved with a dental cleaning for your pet? This is a day procedure, every animal is assigned a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) to monitor your pet’s health throughout the day to provide the safest anesthesia event possible. Each patient would receive a full cleaning, where we remove the plaque and tartar off each tooth, the teeth are polished, and fluoride is applied to help strengthen the teeth. In order to properly evaluate the teeth, we use a dental probe around every surface of every tooth to ensure no hidden pockets or disease under the gumline. To perform this procedure, each animal needs to be under full general anesthesia. With any areas of concern, we use dental radiographs to evaluate the teeth. We would like to be able to save every tooth we see, but if a tooth is loose because it has lost attachment with the underlying bone, or if there is significant disease, we may need to remove that tooth. A painful tooth is not a needed tooth!
The amazing thing about removing diseased teeth is how much happier our animals are without those painful teeth still in their mouths. I can’t tell you the number of times our owners have told us that their dog or cat is ‘like a puppy/kitten again!’ This further strengthens our resolve to continue removing diseased teeth- it is the path to healing.
Our amazing technicians can provide a tooth brushing demonstration, or our veterinarians can help to determine the severity of your animal’s dental disease. Just give us a call.