It’s a new year. As the proverb goes, “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” I’m sure all the pet lovers reading this would agree their pets helped them get through a difficult time. I’m looking forward to a fresh start in 2018

A great way to start out 2018 is with clean teeth and fresh breath.  February is National Dental Awareness Month for pets.


Even though there has been great effort to educate owners about their pet’s dental health, periodontal disease continues to be the most frequently diagnosed condition in cats and dogs.  The effects can range from bad breath to serious systemic disease.


Periodontal disease is progressive inflammation and destruction of the tissues that support the teeth including gums, tooth root, enamel and the periodontal ligament, which holds the tooth in the mouth.


How does periodontal disease occur?  Bacteria, mucin and food particles adhere to the tooth’s surface to form plaque.  Minerals combine with this plaque to form hard calculus referred to as tartar.  It’s this build up of tartar at the gum line that creates gingivitis, the onset of periodontal disease, and ultimately tooth loss.


It is very easy to tell if your pet has dental disease.  Bad breath is an early and sensitive indicator that harmful bacteria are growing in the mouth.  Your pet’s teeth should look white, just like ours.  If you see yellow or brown stains, especially around the gum line, there is a problem.  If the gum line (where the gums meet the tooth) is red and rounded, your pet has gingivitis and should have an evaluation as soon as possible.


A proper dental prophylactic cleaning for your pet is very similar to your own teeth cleaning.  It should include tartar removal by scaling, a flush under the gum line, probing each tooth for disease and finally polishing.  Because this is an uncomfortable and sometimes painful procedure, cats and dogs won’t sit still.  As a result, anesthesia is necessary.  This scares many pet owners and causes them to forego proper dental care for their pets.  There are very few reasons why I would not be able to clean a pet’s teeth safely under anesthesia.  Every week we perform dental procedures on all kinds of elderly patients and pets with medical conditions with no complications.  Proper pre-anesthetic evaluation and ancillary care such as I.V. fluids and antibiotics minimize the risks of the procedure.  All of my patients receive a full physical exam and often lab work prior to a dental procedure.  This helps to find hidden problems and minimizes risks.


Not only will clean teeth make your pet happier and smell better, it can prevent serious internal disease.  The bacteria that grow under the gum line with periodontal disease can easily get into the blood stream through the inflamed gums.  Bacteria, and the toxins they produce, cause damage to internal organs once they get into the blood stream.  Periodontal disease has been linked to medical conditions such as heart, liver and kidney disease.


We can evaluate whether your pet has heart disease or other ailments at the time of the dental cleaning and take the necessary steps to prevent complications.  The benefits of a proper dental cleaning far outweigh any risk of anesthesia.  Please talk with us if you have any concerns about the procedure.  A recent study showed keeping periodontal disease in check could add as much as 20% to your pet’s lifespan.


Very much like your own teeth, prevention and early treatment is the key to dental health.  Prevention care at home has gotten better in the last few years. We have chews and oral rinses that contain an antiseptic. They are safe and easy to use.  These products, along with wipes and brushes, will help keep your pet’s mouth healthy and smelling good.

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