Pet Dental Care
Routine Physical Exam
The first step in preventing oral disease in pets is to have routine physical examination, which includes an oral exam. These exams can help identify potential problems, such as plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease along with broken and/or abscessed teeth. The veterinarian will examine the teeth and gums along with checking the bite to see if anything is maloccluded.
They’ll also look at the soft palate (or the roof of the mouth), tonsils and tongue. Any swelling or discharges along the head or under the eyes could suggest an infected tooth or abscess. Smaller dogs are more prone to dental disease than large dogs because they’re often fed softer foods. However, all pets should have a home dental care program.
Home Dental Care
Home pet dental care is another step to preventing dental disease. You should brush your pet’s teeth with specially formulated toothpaste for pets. Regular human toothpaste should never be used, as most contain fluoride (which can be toxic to pets), bleaches or other irritants that may upset their stomachs. When you brush your pet’s teeth, use a pet toothbrush. Toothbrushes for pets have softer bristles and are shaped for the canine or feline mouth.
You should start brushing your pet’s teeth when he’s young, so he gets used to teeth brushing. Start slowly and carefully, concentrating on the gum line. Give your pet kibble, hard biscuits and treats to help keep tartar to a minimum. It’s also a good idea to check the gums and teeth on a regular basis. Reluctance to eat or drink cold water, pawing at the mouth or cheek area, bad breath, bleeding gums, or any unusual growths in the mouth are signs of concern and should be checked by your veterinarian. If you’re concerned, call the veterinary facility and speak to the veterinary assistant. She’ll be glad to answer any of your questions.
Most pets need, at some point or another, a dental cleaning at the veterinary facility. Unlike their human counterparts, pets are reluctant or unwilling to sit still for a dental cleaning. This means they will have to be put under anesthesia to accomplish this task. Blood work must be performed prior to induction and antibiotic may be prescribed. The procedure can be accomplished within one day with the pet returning home in the evening. While your pet’s under anesthesia, dental X-rays may be needed to check for abscesses, bone loss or broken teeth at the roots. Each tooth may also be inspected and any abnormalities recorded for future reference. The area under the gum line is also cleaned, and plaque and tartar scaled off with an ultrasonic cleaner followed by polishing to smooth the tooth surface.
There are also commercially available chew toys that can aid in the removal of plaque. However, good home dental care and regular visits to the veterinarian are the keys to good health.