Oral Health Care
February is Dental Health month, so I thought I’d do a little blog on oral health care and reasons to see your veterinarian for oral exams and dental cleanings.
Plaque is continuously deposited on the surface of the teeth and so, the key to a healthy mouth is to keep the surfaces of the teeth clean. The gold standard is brushing with a soft tooth brush and approved toothpaste! If plaque is left on the surfaces of the teeth, calcium salts from the saliva deposit and make tartar. Tartar is much harder to remove once it has formed.
Gum disease is due to a build up of plaque and tartar, which often leads to infection in the bone and soft tissues surrounding the teeth. Periodontal disease includes gingivitis (inflammation visible as reddening of the gums) and periodontitis (loss of bone and soft tissue support from around the tooth). Resorptive lesions are common in cats and are pitting defects on the enamel that result in loss of the tooth root and can be quite painful.
Many people ask about non-anesthetic cleanings. This is considered cosmetic by veterinary dentists and is misleading as the crown of the tooth looks great, but disease can be lurking under the gum.
A complete oral health assessment can only be done under general anesthesia. We place all our patients on IV fluids and they are closely monitored (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and temperature) by our technician during the entire procedure. Full mouth radiographs allow us to look at the roots of the teeth and structure of the jaw and determine if any teeth need to be extracted.
The image below demonstrates severe bone loss and root exposure of the premolars in a dog.
The image below demonstrates resorptive lesions in a cat.
After the cleaning, plaque starts to deposit again, so it’s really important to start brushing!
Now, we know that sometimes this isn’t possible. The VOHC (veterinary oral health council) (www.vohc.org) recognizes products that meet preset standards for plaque and tartar control in dogs and cats. Take a look at some of the products that may help your pet.
One more important point to make. It all starts right away! During your pet’s first puppy or kitten appointments, your veterinarian will be inspecting their mouths to ensure proper growth and alignment of the jaw and that as they age, the adult teeth are erupting normally and those baby (deciduous) teeth are falling out when they should be. This is also a good time to get a toothbrush and start getting them used to brushing! Did you know cats have 30 adult teeth and dogs have 42!