Dental health is given absolute top priority at our vet hospital. We see a strong link between longevity and healthy teeth. Put simply, those pets with healthy teeth tend to live longer.
Prevention of tartar or plaque build-up is strongly encouraged on every visit. The junction between the tooth and the gum is vital for a healthy tooth. Healthy gums adhere closely to the tooth root and prevent bacteria and debris from entering this space. When tartar or plaque builds up, this junction is damaged. Infection sets in and increases the separation of the gums from the tooth, which exposes the tooth root. Inflamed gums are painful, and this often causes the pet to chew on the other side (less sore), which makes the problem worse.
Dental treatment involves a thorough assessment of the dog’s teeth, including probing, charting and dental x-rays. This assessment then determines the treatment that each individual tooth will receive. This may include a scale and polish (ultrasonic cleaning of the teeth above and below the gumline, then polishing the surface to help slow re-attachment of plaque), simple restorations (similar to a ‘filling’ in people), application of an antibiotic gel in a small pocket to help reattachment of gum to tooth, or if the dental disease is too advanced, the tooth may need to be extracted. Using these diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, we are excited that we are now able to save more teeth than ever before. It is important to remember though, that once the dental disease is too advanced your pet is much better off without that tooth. In these cases, extraction of teeth is still the best option for a tooth.
After a dental procedure, regular re-checks are required to monitor any re-establishment of dental disease around the teeth. Tooth brushing, prescription dental diets, chewing bones and dental chews, and food and water additives are all ways to help prevent dental disease from coming back, or to prevent it from occurring in the first place! A good way to look at it is to leave nature to its magic, and let our pets chew, chew and chew. Chewing is one of the best ways to clean teeth.
There are many myths regarding dental care, and some frequent concerns. To read about the myths of dental disease, please click here.
Below we have a picture of tartar build up on the teeth of a dog (pre-dental) and the second picture is after a scale and polish.
Some tips for feeding bones:
All bones need to be raw.
If your dog or cat is inexperienced with bones, start by feeding a bone weekly. The bone should be a size that the dog can chew around but not chew it up into pieces and eat the pieces.
Take care with large and angular bone (eg shanks, those split by butchers to expose the marrow, etc), as these can cause fractures of the large teeth at the back of the mouth (premolars and molars).
Freeze chicken necks and wings in summer as a 'popsicle'.
Separate pets before feeding bones to minimise the chances of a fight. Also, some dogs will gorge themselves or try to swallow bones whole when there is competition around.
There are also many soft artificial bones and some quality dental diets to reduce tartar build-up.
We are very excited to bring to our clients a very much new and improved service in the field of veterinary dentistry. We are the proud owners of new state of the art equipment and the service of dental x-ray, which greatly increases the dental service we can provide for your pets here at DMVS.
Dental disease is such a common problem in our pets, causing pain and discomfort, as well as some pretty severe infections in mouths. Because most of our pets are such tough little critters, they will battle away with sore teeth and chronic pain from dental disease for such a long time. Dental disease is very severe if it causes your pet to stop eating, and if this happens, the pet is in a lot of pain. Consider yourself with a tooth ache – ouch!! We are able to do a preliminary dental examination just in our consult rooms, however a more thorough examination (described below) is necessary in all cases to fully assess the health or extent of disease in any pet’s mouth.
This thorough assessment and treatment process is done in two stages:
The first stage involves a full dental scale and polish (similar to the treatment you would have at your own dentist!), as well as a thorough assessment of every tooth, including probing for pockets of infection. X-rays are taken of any teeth that are abnormal from this external examination, to identify any further abnormalities below the gumline. This assessment determines whether the tooth can be saved, or whether it needs to be removed. The pet is then allowed to recover from this initial procedure. A treatment plan with an estimation of cost is then drawn up and discussed, and a plan made to perform this at a later (but soon) date.
The second stage involves the treatments agreed upon previously. This may involve dental surgery including tooth restorations such as capping, may involve local delivery of antibiotics to encourage reattachment of soft tissue to the tooth (in the case of a deep pocket of infection), or may involve dental surgery in the form of tooth extraction if our assessment shows the tooth cannot be saved.
The main advantage of having a two stage process to this is a shorter anaesthetic for your pet, which reduces the chance of any anaesthetic related complications, and improves anaesthetic recovery. This also allows a more thorough planning and decision making process when it comes to the treatment required for your pet, and the appropriate time is allocated to your pet in order to receive the best possible dental care. There will be no additional cost for the split procedure being performed compared to a single anaesthetic.
We are now able to save more teeth than ever before! Using dental x-rays to analyse teeth below the gumline as well as above, we are able to save many more teeth after this thorough assessment.
Book in for a consultation to have your pet’s mouth assessed, and for a more thorough discussion about dental health in your pet, and possible treatment options.
Here are some dental xray images of teeth taken at our clinic.
This image is from a dog who had a traumatic event which resulted in fracture of the crown of tooth 411 (last molar). The tooth was extracted, and confirmed with xray that the entire tooth root was removed in the process.
This is a cat’s mouth. You can see the ‘hole’ in the premolar (407) in the lower jaw. This is a result of Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions, a common condition in older cats where the body’s immune system causes decay of teeth. This can happen above the gumline such as in this tooth, or can occur only in the roots of teeth. This is a painful condition which will eventually result in the resorption of the entire tooth. As such, the only treatment at this point for these teeth is extraction, to speed up the process and eliminate the pain for the pet. These lesions below the gumline can only be detected using dental xrays.
This is a young adult dog that didn’t ever lose it’s deciduous (baby) canine tooth. You can see the long, skinny and pointy canine tooth here. This xray was taken to see if there was an adult tooth sitting behind it waiting to erupt. There isn’t a permanent (adult) tooth in this dog, so the baby tooth is left in place. If there was an adult tooth there, the baby tooth would have been removed to encourage the adult tooth to erupt.
This x-ray shows two teeth that have severe periodontal disease. Both teeth have resorption of the bone surrounding the tooth roots (arrows). The smaller tooth is only just hanging on with such a small amount of the tooth roots still embedded within the bone of the jaw. The larger tooth only has one affected tooth root, and the other is largely unaffected. Unfortunately these teeth have disease that is too advanced to repair, and the teeth need to be removed. The dog will be a lot happier almost instantly once we have removed the teeth and the constant source of pain and infection from this severe dental disease.
We are so pleased to be able to perform simple dental restorations here at DMVS. The images below show an example of a fractured tooth (first image), and it’s repair (second image). This kind of tooth fracture is very common in dogs from chewing on hard angled objects (think angled or cut bones - see above for how to feed bones safely). This kind of repair is similar to you having a filling at a dentist. While we love to repair fractured teeth, unfortunately not all fractures are appropriate to perform this type of restoration on and some fractured teeth still require removal.
The dog pictured now has a filling over her tooth fracture which will seal it to reduce sensitivity and the chance of a tooth root infection, which would ultimately end in tooth removal.