Did you know that we do FREE dental checks all year round!
Many owners don’t know the signs of dental disease - a huge hidden cause of pain for many pets!
Smelly breath, red gums, reluctance to eat (or chewing on one side only) and weight loss can all be signs indicating that your pet needs a dental check.
Periodontal disease has been linked as a risk factor in heart, kidney and liver disease, and the scariest part - 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of dental disease by 3 years of age!!
New research has shown that the most effective teeth cleaning is done by a toothbrush and pet toothpaste. If older or uncooperative animals cannot be coaxed into having their teeth brushed, veterinary dental foods, water additives and special teeth-cleaning toys can help.
Be aware – dental disease can become a welfare issue for your pet (even if they are still eating!). So if you see red gums – book a dental check now!
Below is a general guide on teeth and how to prevent teeth issues in your pet.
Prevention and treatment of teeth and gum disease
How does tartar form, and what does it do?
Plaque is an invisible coating. It is a bacterial coating that forms on the teeth within a few hours after a meal. Within 24 hours, plaque starts to harden into calculus or tartar.
Tartar is harmful in two ways. First, it serves as a place where bacteria can reside and multiply in the mouth. There is substantial scientific evidence that bacteria from tartar get into the blood stream and are deposited in various organs. Heart and kidney disease may result. Second, tartar builds up at the gum line. As the tartar deposit gets larger, it pushes the gums away from the roots of the teeth. Eventually, the teeth will loosen and fall out.
What are the clinical signs of dental disease?
Signs of dental disease include smelly breath (halitosis), difficulty eating – especially dry food! and loss of weight. Some pets will still eat dry food but will not chew it at all.
Remember - some pets may only have a slight smelly breath and no other signs! It is worth having the mouth checked if concerned.
What can I do if my pet has dental disease?
To determine the best treatment you will need to bring your pet in for a consultation. Dr Rose or Dr Kerryn can then check the teeth and gums and discuss the options of treatment with you.
If there is a lot of tartar buildup and gingivitis (inflamed gums) it is likely that a teeth scale under general anaesthetic is the best course of treatment. The preventative treatments below are then used to prevent recurrence. Antibiotics are dispensed for 5-7 days before and after the teeth scale. This helps reduce the bacterial infection in the mouth so that there is less chance of bacteria entering the blood stream and damaging body organs.
What if my pet has dental disease?
Firstly, you should have your pet's teeth examined by one of our veterinarians on a regular basis and if necessary, follow up with a professional dental clean. Your pet needs to be anaesthetised to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all teeth without distressing them. Once anaesthetised, a complete dental examination is carried out. This process involves charting all present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and any pockets in the gums around the teeth.
Our veterinarians will then remove the tartar above the gumline using a special ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for our teeth. The teeth are then polished using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste. If the dental disease is not severe, the procedure will end here. However, if certain teeth are so severely affected they cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary. In some cases, gum surgery is required to close the holes left behind when a tooth is extracted, and dissolvable stitches are used for this procedure.
Once all dental work is completed, your pet may be given an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection, the anaesthetic gas is turned off, and your pet is allowed to wake up. Pets are generally able to go home on the same day.
Following a professional dental clean, a plan needs to be implemented to minimise build up of tartar again, and will depend on the severity of your pet’s dental disease. This may involve regular tooth brushing, feeding raw meaty bones and/or a special diet. It is recommended that all pets be examined 6 months after dental cleaning to determine the effectiveness of your dental care routine.
Prevention and treatment of teeth and gum disease
How can I prevent tartar formation on my pet's teeth?
We would like to recommend a few steps which will help to reduce the process of plaque and tartar build up.
- Brushing of the teeth is the most effective means of removing plaque before it turns into tartar. We recommend the use of a toothpaste made especially for pets. Teeth cleaning needs to be performed daily.
Please ask us if you are interested as this is now universally understood to be the “gold standard’ in preventing teeth and gum disease.
2. Feed your pet a prescription diet specially formulated to reduce tartar buildup. These diets have been formulated as a dry food and are composed of large pieces. Because the pieces are too large to be swallowed whole, your dog must chew them. These preparations contain fibres that literally scrape the plaque off the teeth without damaging the enamel. They also have some chemical ability to clean teeth. By removing plaque as it forms, tartar formation is greatly diminished. We recommend Royal Canin dental food for both cats and dogs.
- Use a mouthwash, called Aquadent, that is added to your pet's drinking water. This type of product reduces the bacterial count in the mouth, resulting in improved breath and reducing plaque.
- Encouraging chewing of dental chew toys (eg Kong toys, Aussie Dog toys). Dogs who chew more tend to accumulate tartar more slowly. Please ask us – we are happy to show you these toys and they also make great Boredom Busters when your pet is home alone!
- Greenies, Prozym and Dentastix chew treats given daily.
- Raw bones? New evidence suggests that bones can cause more harm than good. Veterinary dentists do not recommend their use as they can cause tooth fractures. We leave it up to you to decide but advise that if you do use bones, ensure that they are ALWAYS raw and not too small for the pet (ie could be swallowed whole).