Dental Frequently Asked Questions

What is pet dental disease?

Dental disease in pets in very similar to what we ourselves experience and may include:

  • Fractured teeth
  • Tartar buildup
  • Gum recession
  • Cavities or resportive lesions in cats
  • Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is a disease of tissues that support and anchor the teeth. This includes the gingiva, periodontal ligament, cementum, and alveolar bone.

How is dental disease detected?

At each wellness exam, we will inspect your pet's teeth, gums, and mouth. Many dental issues are visible to the trained eye. If we see evidence of dental disease, we may recommend that your pet be scheduled for teeth cleaning. Despite the fact that dental disease can be very painful, your pet may not show any outward signs of oral problems.

What exactly is a pet teeth cleaning?

A teeth cleaning is much like you experience it, except it is done under anesthesia, which allows us to get a good look at your pet's mouth. The pet receives an ultrasonic scaling to remove calculus (hardened plaque or tartar) from the surfaces of the teeth both above and below the gum line, followed by a dental polishing to smooth out the tooth surfaces. Fluoride is then applied to act as an effective bacteriostic agent.

Our professional dental treatment includes probing each tooth to better evaluate the extent of periodontal disease present. If significant disease is evident, our doctors will recommend evaluating the health of the tooth (or teeth) using our digital dental radiography system. This allows our doctors to evaluate the supporting structures and any pathology hiding below the gingiva or gums of the teeth.

If supporting structures have been compromised, or if there is any indication of more extensive disease (including endodontal disease), extracting the teeth or referral or consultation for more specialized care of complicated problems may be recommended.

In some cases, questionable teeth can be saved with home care and more frequent professional dental treatments. For important teeth (like canines), this may be the preferred course of action.

I feed my pet kibble. Doesn't that clean the teeth?

Dental disease is very individual. Some cats and dogs are blessed with great teeth, whereas others are more susceptible to dental disease. Home care, dental treats, and the like can help, but there typically comes a point when home care is not enough to treat your pet's dental disease.

Are dental cleanings and services really necessary?

Left unmanaged, dental problems can progress to painful and systemic health problems. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream and cause damage to many organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. Dental disease becomes a chronic inflammatory process and can strain your pet's immune system. Potential concurrent disease processes that can be exacerbated by dental disease include diabetes, cardiopulmonary problems, liver disease, hypothyroidism, and Cushing's disease. Finally, dental problems are very uncomfortable for your pet, adversely impacting life quality.

Can dental disease be prevented?

The best way to ensure good oral health is to manage it with prevention and early intervention. This should begin at an early age, before the effects of periodontal disease have started. This includes routine brushing with a pet-safe toothpaste and brush. Our staff will be happy to discuss this with you in further detail, and we can provide one of our dental pamphlets with instructions at your pet's next visit. The American Animal Hospital Associations also provides some helpful tips on brushing your pet's teeth.

If you have any further questions about keeping your pet's mouth healthy, please contact us.