February is National Veterinary Dental Awareness Month ( Dr. Zach Weiner)

 

PART I.

Let’s keep those pearly whites happy and healthy.

My boy Milo is all ready to get his teeth cleaned!

Hello readers.  I hope everyone had a great holiday season.  This is a great time to focus on our pets’ health as well as our own.  After all, I know that you all want to keep Fido and Fluffy happy, healthy, and comfortable for as long as possible.  That is the reason that you come to see us regularly and read these informative blogs.  Preventative and interventional medicine can both do great things to not only lengthen but strengthen your dear friends’ life.  So why not make a resolution for your little one as well as for yourself?  Of course, I don’t mean that they should work harder to reconnect with distant friends or lay off the extra cake (although that last one is surely recommended).  Rather, the veterinary team, you, and your pet need to take another look at something that we may have been putting off for too long now.  Yes gentle readers, it is time to address the pink elephant in the room which in this case is your fuzzy one’s mouth.

Its not just about bad breath or aesthetics anymore.

Combating dental disease is not just about fighting bad breath or making them look pure white.  Certainly, these are desirable effects of a healthy mouth and important to consider.   After all, who would not prefer to be licked by a pleasant smelling dog mouth? Also, who does not want their little one to look as brilliant as possible?  That being said, if it was just about looks and smell, I could understand how one could see the procedure as an elective or cosmetic procedure.  The thing is, though, that maintaining oral health is so much more important than that.  In dogs and cats, halitosis can not simply be attributed to dietary habits.  Rather, when your pet’s breath smells bad it is almost always due to significant oral infection.  First and foremost, this infection eats away at the bone around the teeth and causes a great deal of pain.  Keep in mind that all dogs and cats will eat even if they are in pain.   In the wild, hiding pain kept them alive, but in our homes it can make the disease harder to recognize.  For this reason, it is important to have your friendly veterinarian evaluate your pet’s teeth at least once a year even if you have not noticed any problems.  Our pets can try to hide their discomfort until the dental disease becomes irreversible.  However, if we are vigilant your pet will enjoy a pain free and healthy mouth for all of his or her days.  Since bacteria from the mouth can infect the kidneys and heart, removing the infection will keep the rest of the body healthy as well.

In her companion blog article, Dr. Ruthberg will elaborate on the benefits and proper method of a full oral evaluation and treatment.    For the purpose of this article though, keep in mind that “cosmetic” cleanings without anesthesia are dangerous and do not address the true source of dental disease. For more information, please refer position statement by the American college of Veterinary Dentists: http://www.avdc.org/dentalscaling.html.  Just as in human dental care, there are no shortcuts to good oral health.   Proper home care, regular prophylactic cleanings, and surgical intervention are all critical to keep those mouths happy and healthy.

Consider the following facts:

Subtle signs like decreased self-grooming in longhaired cats can be early indications of oral pain and infection.

 

1) At the tender age of 3 years old, 80% (Yes that’s 8 out of 10) dogs have gingival disease.  If left untreated, this will lead to irreversible bone destruction leading to tooth loss.  The moral of this story is it’s never too early to get on top of your dog’s oral care.  Cats are not much better off with 70% having clinically significant gingival disease by the same age.

2) There are several diseases that can only be diagnosed and treated by a trained veterinary professional.  In cats, these include inflammatory swelling of the gums and mouth, irreversible bone loss and gingival infections, and cavity-like resorptive lesions.  Dogs can also develop bone loss and gingival infections as well as tooth fractures.

3) Our teeth have a full 3 millimeters of enamel for protection but dogs only have 1.5 millimeters, one half the amount.  This lack of protection puts them at higher risk for external damage.  Additionally, for many breeds their jaws can produce an enormous amount of force while chewing (250-350 pounds per square inch compared to 150 for a human).   It is not hard to see why so many dogs fracture their teeth when chewing on bones, rocks, ice cubes and hard toys.

4) Sneezing and nasal discharge may be due to an infection of the upper tooth roots. The infection may lead to an opening between the mouth and the nasal cavity. This is called an oronasal fistula, and treatment requires surgical repair.  This is especially common in dachshunds, greyhounds, and cats.

5) Facial swelling below the eye is usually due an infection of the fourth upper premolar.  This is the main chewing tooth in a dog’s mouth, which makes it susceptible to fracture.  Its position in the back of the mouth also makes it difficult to keep this tooth clean with home care alone.  The treatment for this abscess is oral surgery.

6) Small dog breeds are more likely to develop gingivitis and periodontal disease than large dogs because the teeth of small dogs are often too large for their mouths, according to veterinary dentistry experts.

 

Keeping all that in mind, let us help you keep your pets’ teeth healthy for years to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.