Dental Disease...It's more than bad breath
Does your pet have smelly breath? Have you stopped letting them give you kisses because it's so bad? When they are in your face does it make your eyes water? Then your pet may have dental disease. In pets with dental disease that smell can be caused by harmful bacteria. That bacteria can affect more than just your pet's breath. It can affect your pet's overall health too.
What Causes Dental Disease
Dental disease starts when a film of bacteria called plaque forms on your pet's teeth. If left on the teeth long enough that plaque can harden and form tartar or calculus. Plaque can be removed by brushing your pet's teeth but once it has become calculus it is much harder to remove. It requires a professional cleaning here at the hospital to remove the calculus.
Not only does the bacteria stick to the teeth but it can also get under the gumline and cause periodontal disease. Periodontal disease includes gingivitis (red and swollen gums) and periodontitis (loss of bone and soft tissue around the teeth). Periodontal disease is painful to your pet. You may notice changing in their eating habits like not wanting to chew on both sides of their mouth or not eating their hard food any more. When periodontal disease is left untreated it can cause lead to tooth loss as well.
When dental disease is severe enough the bacteria can also get into your pet's bloodstream and travel throughout their body. This can cause damage to their heart, kidneys and liver.
How to Prevent Dental Disease
Like with people each pet is different. And like with people some pets develop plaque quicker than others. Some pets never have their teeth brushed and never need a dental cleaning. Others will need their teeth brush everyday and still need a dental cleaning every 6 months.
The best thing you can do to slow down the progression of dental disease is brush your pet's teeth everyday. Dental treats like Science Diet T/D or chews like Enzadent Chews can help as well.
Eventually most pets will need a dental cleaning here at the hospital. The ideal time to have their teeth professionally cleaned is before we are seeing signs of periodontal disease. Once periodontal disease has started tooth loss and oral surgery are more likely to be needed.
We use a scale of 1 to 4 to grade the progression of dental disease in your pet. The higher the grade is the more advanced your pet's dental disease has progressed.
Grade 1: mild plaque, no pockets (areas where the gum is not snug around the teeth. Bacteria accumulates there and damages the teeth and supportive tissue. These pockets can get bigger if left untreated), no inflamed gingiva, no bone loss.
Grade 2: Plaque on incisors and canine teeth, pocket forming less than 25%, mild bone loss.
Grade 3: Calculus, deepening pockets (>25%), extensive bone reduction.
Grade 4: Extensive calculus, severe inflammation of gingiva, deep pockets (>50%), severe bone and gum loss.
What Happens During a Cleaning
- Step One: The first step will be doing bloodwork to make sure your pet is healthy for anesthesia. The doctor will be looking to see if there are anything abnormal on your pet's bloodwork that would put them at any increased risk during the dental cleaning.
- Step Two: The day of the dental cleaning we place an IV catheter and administer IV fluids for the duration of the cleaning. The catheter provides a port should we need to administer any medication during the dental cleaning. The fluids help keep your pet hydrated and allows for correction of blood pressure. Your pet will also be placed on a water blanket to keep them warm while they are under anesthesia.
- Step Three: While one nurse is cleaning your pets teeth a second nurse will be monitoring your pet's vital signs. They will monitor your pet's heart rate and oxygenation level, their blood pressure and temperature.
- Step Four: The first nurse will clean your pet's teeth using an ultra sonic scaler to remove the plaque and tartar. If your pet has any teeth that are damaged the nurses may need to take a dental radiograph so the doctor can see if the tooth needs to be extracted. Once the doctor has reviewed the radiographs they will extracted any teeth that are no longer healthy. Once the tartar is removed, and any teeth extracted, the nurse will polish the teeth. Finally they will apply Oravet: a sealant that will protect your pet's teeth from plaque. We take before and after pictures so you can see how much cleaner your pets mouth looks after the cleaning.
- Step Five: After the cleaning your pet will be monitored as they wake up from anesthesia. We will call and/or text you (with an "I'm awake" picture) when your pet is awake to let you know how everything went. You can pick them up the same day at the pre-schedule discharge appointment time.
- Step Six: We need to see your pet back for a courtesy check in 10 days to see how they are doing after their dental cleaning. At that time we will demonstrate how to brush your pet's teeth, if you are not doing that already. Then a 4-6 months courtesy check.
Grade 4 Dental Disease before cleaning
Same side after the cleaning. Notice the patient had a number of teeth extracted. The owner reports their pet is acting much better after the cleaning and they appreciate the value of the procedure.
Dental disease is more than bad breath. It can affect your pet's overall health and their quality of life.