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Tip of the Month

1/10/2011 Pearly Whites – Dental Care Program

The first step in preventing oral disease in pets is to have routine physical examination which includes an oral exam. These exams can help to identify potential problems such as plaque and 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 will also look at the soft palate (or the roof of the mouth), the tonsils and the 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 rather than large dogs are you are more often feed softer foods. However, all pets should have a regular home care.

Home oral care is another step to preventing dental disease. This includes brushing the teeth with specially formulated toothpaste. Regular human toothpaste should never be used as most contain fluoride which can be toxic to pets, bleaches or other irritants that will upset their stomachs. There are many commercially made toothpaste formulated for pets.Also the use of a pet toothbrush is recommended as the bristles are softer for pets and are shaped for the canine and / or feline mouth. You should start brushing your pet’s teeth when they are young so they get use to the idea. Start slowly and carefully, concentrating on the gum line. Also, giving them kibble to eat or hard biscuits and / treats will also help keep the tartar to a minimum. It is 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 are concerned, call the veterinary facility and
speak to the veterinary assistant as they will 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 they are under anesthesia, dental x-rays may be needed to check for abscesses, bone loss or broken teeth at the roots. Each tooth can also be inspected and any abnormalities can be recorded for future reference. The area under the gum line must also be 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 will aid in removal of plaque: however, good home care and regular visits to the veterinarian are the keep to good health.

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