February is Dental Month for our Veterinary Practices
Dental care is an important part of your pets’ overall health and should be addressed year round but we use this month to focus on addressing dental problems and preventative care to help prevent problems in the future. Dental disease can result in pain, infections, decreased appetite and in severe cases, can cause other systemic diseases such as damage to the kidneys, the heart and the liver (http://www.vohc.org/). Ensuring good oral health will allow us to help your pet live a long, happy, healthy life.
The best way we have to treat dental disease is to prevent it from starting and that means that we recommend brushing your dog or cat’s teeth right from the start to help prevent and slow down dental disease progression. The presence of tartar or inflamed gums indicates disease in the early stages so our goal is to prevent this with brushing. Our pets are often much more stoic than us so they may not show any outward signs of dental disease until disease is progressed.
One of the most common signs dental disease observed by owners is bad breath. This is a result of bacteria, plaque, and gum disease. Often, once we start to appreciate bad breath, disease has already started to occur. The best way to combat bad breath is to brush regularly to help rid the mouth of bacteria but if the tartar is given the chance to form, gum disease progresses to cause periodontal disease or bone loss occurs and brushing alone will not be enough.
Dental disease in cats is often a bit different than in dogs. Cats do not tend to form much tartar as dogs but are very susceptible to forming resorptive lesions, also called caries, which act similar to cavities in humans and can be progressive and uncomfortable. Resorptive lesions are only ultimately diagnosed with dental x-ray but some signs of these can be red gingiva around the area, pain on palpation, decreased appetite, dropping food or lost or missing teeth.
Dental disease is a disease best managed and prevented with routine care at home. Daily brushing with a special veterinary only (never use a human toothpaste without checking with a veterinarian first!) toothpaste such as CET paste. Many dogs and cats will become accustomed to brushing and even look forward to it as a treat. We have handouts on how best to brush and are happy to demonstrate during an examination or as a technician appointment. Brushing daily is ideal but we understand that life is busy so our recommendation is always to brush as often as you can.
There are other preventative measures for your pet’s dental care to use in addition to brushing or if your pet does not tolerate brushing. Adding a dental additive to your pets’ water such as “healthy mouth” can help to decrease the bacteria present in your pets’ mouth and help to slow down progression of tartar and plaque. Additionally, if your dog is a chewer and can safely eat rawhide, we also recommend the CET dental chews or the veggie dental chews as a healthy chew toy to promote healthy teeth and gums. There are many other water additives, gels, and dental chews available and we recommend that you use a product endorsed by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
As always, “dentals” or full dental cleaning and assessment procedures are a critical part of dental care for our dogs and cats. Our human dentists recommend at least twice a year appointments for thorough cleanings under our gumlines, assessment of our gums and teeth as well as x-rays. As you can imagine, this procedure can be very scary and uncomfortable for our pets so this does require full anesthesia in veterinary medicine.
Dental health is an important part of the overall health for our pets.