Periodontal disease is the most common condition in dogs and cats and it is entirely preventable! As bacteria spend time on the teeth, they develop into plaque and harden into tartar. The bacteria make their way under the gumline causing inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), infection, and bone loss. We identify these abnormalities by probing pockets around teeth, through dental x-rays, and by feeling if the teeth are mobile. All this is performed while your pet is under anesthesia for a dental cleaning. We at Rural Animal Clinic emphasize preventative dental care in an effort to maintain oral health and decrease the prevalence of periodontal disease.
Professional Dental Cleaning
We strongly encourage all of our clients to brush their pets’ teeth daily, but even with excellent home care, most pets will need a professional dental procedure at some point in their lives (the same way humans do!). While your pet is under anesthesia, all the teeth are probed for pockets and lesions and are then scaled and polished. Digital x-rays are available to be taken of specific teeth that appear to be diseased or all the teeth in the mouth (called full-mouth x-rays). Since most dental disease lives below the gumline, dental x-rays allow us to see the tooth root and the surrounding tissue. This enables us to diagnose bone loss, tooth root infections, fractures, and resorptive lesions. Fluoride is applied to the teeth at the end of the procedure. Animals are then sent home with medications to help with inflammation and discomfort. Recovery is usually uneventful and within a few days most pets feel much better with a healthy mouth!
Tooth resorption is a common finding in cats and, unfortunately, we do not know what causes it! For an unknown reason, cells called odonoclasts are turned on by the body and start eating away at the teeth. Tooth resorption is a painful process, therefore, it is important to identify these lesions early. Some resorptive lesions can be seen on an awake oral examination during your cat’s annual visit, but many lesions are below the gumline and can only be identified by dental x-rays during a dental cleaning. We recommend performing full-mouth dental x-rays in cats with resorptive lesions. Extraction and crown amputation are the only treatments of teeth affected by resorptive lesions. It is important to closely monitor cats with a history of tooth resorption, as any tooth can become affected at any time.
Tooth Home Care
Prevention of periodontal disease is key! The best way to prevent periodontal disease is by brushing plaque off the teeth, ideally on a daily basis. The use of a toothbrush, fingerbrush, or dental wipe is recommended. Pet-friendly toothpaste can be used in conjunction with brushing. Gradually introducing these products to your pets will allow them to become used to, and enjoy, daily brushing.
There are dental diets as well as oral rinses and gels that are also available to help prevent periodontal disease. Rinses and gels should have chlorhexidine, an antiseptic, as the active ingredient. Please contact us for more information and recommendations.
Watch these videos to learn how to brush your pet’s teeth: