Regular dental care does more than just keep your pet’s breath fresh and clean. St Vital Veterinary Hospital has made a strong commitment to keeping your pet’s mouth clean and healthy.
Why Pet Dental Care is Important
Good dental care plays a crucial role in the quality of your pet’s life. Dental disease is one of the most common medical problem seen in pets, and if left untreated, can lead to pain, tooth loss and larger systemic problems. Pets have dental disease just like you do. Many of these problems can be avoided by bringing your pet to your veterinarian for regular dental check-ups and teeth cleanings. Bad breath and/or reddened gums are the most common signs of dental problems.
Some signs of dental problems include:
- Bad breath – one of the first signs of dental disease
- A yellowish-brown crust of plaque on the teeth near the gum line
- Red and swollen gums
- Pain or bleeding when your pet eats or when the mouth or gums are touched
- Decreased appetite or difficulty eating
- Loose or missing teeth
What Happens During a Cleaning
Veterinary dentistry is quite different from the equivalent process in people. For most of us, caring for our teeth and gums has been part of our daily routine for as long as we can remember. Consequently, a person’s visit to the dentist is relatively brief and does not require sedation. In contrast, veterinary dentistry is considerably more involved, time-consuming and complex. Cleaning a pet’s teeth requires general anesthesia and some hospitalization. The skills of several people, from Veterinarians to RAHTs are required for each dental procedure.Taking good care of your pet’s teeth involves more than just “cleaning” the part of the tooth above the gumline. Evaluating the health of each tooth and treating dental disease ensures that your pet’s mouth is as healthy as possible. And a healthier mouth means a healthier pet. We clean, polish and probe each tooth individually. We will also perform a soft tissue exam to check for cancers, sores and other oral problems.
The first part of dental cleaning involves an examination of the mouth in its entirety: what is the health of the gums and all soft tissues in the mouth? Are there any masses? Next, the removal of tartar both above (supragingivally) and below (subgingivally) the gumline. This is done with a hand scaler and ultrasonic scaler. The teeth are evaluated for any abnormal periodontal pocket depths.Your pet’s teeth are polished, and the gums are washed in an anti-bacterial solution to help delay plaque buildup. If there are any diseased teeth that need surgical extraction, they are removed and the gums closed and sutured.
An examination does not always reveal all sources of pain in an animal’s mouth; therefore, we will perform some or full mouth radiographs during routine dental cleanings. A dental radiograph will detect disease and potential pain that may be occurring under the gums.
Prevention: The Best Medicine
Dental care does not end with a visit to your veterinarian. You need to continue your veterinarian’s good work at home. Brushing your pet’s teeth is an important part of home dental care. Any member of the St Vital Veterinary Hospital team can show you the proper method of brushing your pet’s teeth. Additionally, several Veterinary Oral Health Council approved dental diets are available.
Please call for more information about St Vital Veterinary Hospital’s dental services.
Commonly Asked Dental Questions:
Q. Why is dental care being approached differently now than in the past?
A. Just as in human medicine, we are continually learning and advancing. Studies have shown a strong link between dental health and the length and quality of your pet’s life.
Q. Is there a benefit to just cleaning the crowns of the teeth (the part of the tooth that is seen)?
A. Maybe, but only if a tooth-by-tooth examination of the mouth is also performed. Dental x-rays should be taken, each tooth should be probed, and a treatment plan should be formulated for addressing periodontal disease or other dental problems either at that time or at a later date.
Q. What is periodontal disease?
A. Periodontal disease is the result of inflammation caused by plaque. It leads to the destruction of the structures that support the tooth. Symptoms to watch for in your pet include gingivitis (redness of the gums) and mouth odour. Because pets often show no outward signs of periodontal disease, routine oral examinations are necessary for your pet’s health. Periodontal disease is the most common disease seen in dogs and cats.
Q. Is there a benefit to repeatedly cleaning the crowns without addressing periodontal disease?
A. No, cleaning the crowns without treating underlying dental problems is of no benefit to your pet. Cleaning the crowns neither treats dental disease nor stops the disease process. In fact, repeated cleanings in pets affected with periodontal disease may cause further damage to the teeth and surrounding structures.
Q. My pet’s teeth look fine. Why are dental x-rays necessary?
A. Remember that approximately 75% of each tooth is below the gumline where it cannot be seen. Without dental x-rays, it is impossible to know if there is disease in that part of the tooth. A tooth can look perfectly normal and yet be causing your pet much pain. X-rays also allow us to assess the health of the bone socket that supports the tooth.
Q. I received a quote from another hospital for a dental cleaning, but SVVH’s quote was higher. Why is there such a difference in fees between hospitals?
A. We cannot speak for other hospitals, but we suggest you ask the following questions:
- Do you have the capability to do dental x-rays?
- If yes, is the x-ray unit a digital unit? (Digital units require your pet to be under anesthesia for a shorter period of time.)
- If no, how do you check the health of the tooth roots and bone?
- Does the doctor examine my pet’s mouth and probe each tooth? Who monitors the anesthesia?
- Do you use local anesthesia to numb my pet’s mouth during painful dental procedures?
- Will I receive a treatment plan for periodontal disease or other dental conditions?
Our knowledgeable team will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your pet’s dental health. If you have not had the opportunity to meet our staff, we would love to meet you and your pet. Please call to schedule a dental exam.