At Aboite Animal Hospital, we are fortunate to have in our staff, Dr. Bill Chastain, who is considered one of the top canine and feline dental specialists in the Tri-State area. We emphasize the importance of dental care for your pet’s short and long term health. Here are a few questions and answers that will help explain why good oral health is so important for your dog and cat.
What is dental disease? What is its impact?
Periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease of the dog and cat. It is estimated that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats that are 3 years of age or older have some level of periodontal disease. The process begins with salivary proteins and bacteria that adhere to the teeth and irritate the gums. If the plaque is removed at this stage, then the gum tissue will heal, and no further damage is done.
However, with time the plaque will harden and form calculus, which is a hard, cement like substance. This hard surface is a great place for more bacteria and salivary proteins to adhere. With time the inflammation that is in the gum tissue will continue to progress and start to invade the structures around the tooth. As these support structures become inflammed and infected, the tooth begins to loosen and will eventually fall out. This periodontitis or a tooth abscess condition can become extremely painful. Before the tooth falls out or is removed, the inflammation and infection can have a devastating effect on the rest of the body. The bacteria produce toxins and inflammation produces inflammatory factors which affect the immune system. With constant infection and inflammation, these bacteria, bacterial toxins, and inflammatory factors are absorbed into the blood stream setting up inflammation and possibly infection in other areas of the body.
In humans, periodontal disease significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, including thromboemboli formation, stroke, endocarditis, premature low birth weight, and even pneumonia. This is also true of our dogs and cats. In dogs, there is a positive correlation between the severity of periodontal disease and the level of tissue changes in the myocardium (heart), renal (kidney) and hepatic (liver) tissues. That is why it is important that dental care be an important part of your pet's health care, just as it is yours.
What do we do to prevent periodontal disease?
The key to keeping your pet’s mouth healthy is removing the plaque from the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Remember plaque is the build-up of salivary proteins and bacteria. Since our pets do not brush their teeth daily, protein and bacteria will always be in the mouth, so we need to focus on removing the plaque from the teeth. Professional hygiene, including ultrasonic teeth cleaning and polishing performed by your veterinary team is recommended once a year for most dogs and cats. With aging, many of the smaller breed dogs require teeth cleaning every 6 to 8 months. After all, the American Dental Society recommends that we have our teeth cleaned every 6 months. Just like in human dentistry, taking digital dental x-ray films plays an extremely important role in identifying hidden pockets of infection and tooth root absorption or abscesses.
Brushing the teeth can also be beneficial if your pet will allow it. This is not as hard as it sounds. Most of the plaque that builds up is on the outside (cheek side) of the molars and canines. That means you do not have to brush the insides or the top or bottoms of the teeth, just the outsides. Doing this daily is optimal, however, owners that are dedicated to at least weekly brushings still see a remarkable difference in calculus build-up.
Certain foods like Hill’s TD are made to help physically removed the plaque as your pet chews the larger biscuit type food. Allowing your dog to chew on the larger plain white rawhide bones for 20 to 30 minutes at a time while supervised, two or three times a week, can remove a great deal of the plaque buildup. An all natural powder food additive called Periodontal Support sprinkled over your pets food daily can also go a long way in the prevention of bad breath and plaque accumulation. A mild Chlorhexadine oral rinse can also be added to your pet’s water supply to help decrease the number of bacteria and thus help eliminate breath odor. Brushing can also be beneficial if your pet will allow it.
What happens when the calculus is present?
Unfortunately, once calculus has formed, professional cleaning utilizing a cavaltron ultrasonic dental instrument producing a high frequency sound wave with simultaneous water spray is the best way to remove the calculus. Brushing just cannot remove the hard cement-like substance. At Aboite Animal Hospital, we have Dr. Bill Chastain who is our canine and feline dental specialist, along with our highly trained staff of veterinary technicians who perform dental cleanings every day. The calculus is removed first, and then the teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic tooth scaler, followed by polishing, and a fluoride treatment.
Any extractions, oral tumor removals or oral surgical laser procedures, are performed by the veterinarian working on the case. Animals do require light level anesthesia for the dental cleaning. We use the most current and safe anesthetic protocols for all of our patients. We also utilize the best anesthetic monitoring equipment available to monitor the vital functions of your pet. We strongly recommend pre-anesthetic blood screening to identify any underlying liver or kidney condition that may be unknowingly present. The combination of these services allows for safe anesthesia.
How do you know if your pet has dental disease?
Evaluating the dental health of your pet is always performed as a part of our routine exam. Treatment recommendations are then made at that time. Please keep in mind however, the severity of the dental disease can only be accurately determined with a thorough evaluation and dental x-rays by the veterinarian while under anesthesia.