Dentistry Client Education

Pet dental care client education articles from the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) and various sources:

 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is involved in a professional teeth cleaning at Dallas Veterinary Dentistry & Oral Surgery?

For each professional teeth cleaning, 11 separate steps are performed:

  1. A general exam before anesthesia, including evaluation of the bite, preoperative organ testing and identification of abnormal wear patterns, gum infection, and oral cancer
  2. Oral examination by Dr. Nossaman or Dr. Gengler of each tooth under anesthesia
  3. Calculus removal from above and below the gumline
  4. Subgingival (below-the-gum-line) scaling, root planing, and curettage where indicated
  5. Tooth polishing
  6. Irrigation
  7. A post cleaning exam and radiographs on every patient
  8. Dental charting to keep a record of abnormalities and treatment performed
  9. Therapy if necessary
  10. Home care instructions
  11. A follow-up appointment and periodic rechecks to see how well you are performing home care

How much does a professional teeth-cleaning procedure cost?

It is impossible to quote what the procedure will cost because we do not know what state your pet's teeth and gums are in. There are four levels of teeth cleaning at our hospital: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 and Stage 4. The range of fees is based on severity plus fees for preoperative testing, anesthesia, and medication. The doctor or staff will be happy to give you an estimate once you bring your dog or cat in for their free examination.

Why should I brush my pet's teeth?

Daily removal of plaque is the key to an effective oral hygiene program. Unless your pet's teeth are brushed daily, plaque, which supports an accumulation of bacteria, will build up at the gum line. Eventually, calculus forms, further irritating the gums, allowing infection to progresses and destroy the attachment around your pet's teeth. In addition to creating loose teeth, infection under the gum line can spread to the liver, kidneys, and heart.

Dentistry FAQsHow can I brush my pet's teeth?

It is usually a very easy and fun procedure. First, pick a soft-bristled or finger toothbrush. Next, get toothpaste from your veterinarian. Do not use toothpaste intended for humans because it has detergents that should not be swallowed. Apply a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush and brush the outside of the upper cheek teeth. Concentrate on the area where the tooth meets the gum line.

How often does my pet need to have its teeth professionally cleaned?

It depends on the degree of plaque and tartar accumulation. Examine your pet's teeth monthly. Look for an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gum line. Pay particular attention to the cheek teeth and canines.

Once you notice plaque or tartar accumulation, it is time for a professional cleaning. Do not wait. Attached to the tartar are bacteria that are irritating gum tissues. When treated, inflammation will be resolved. When gingivitis is left untreated, it will, progress to periodontitis, which is nonreversible.

The intervals between professional teeth-cleaning procedures will depend on how often you can brush your pet's teeth. Once or twice daily is optimum. If you cannot brush your pet's teeth, then your pet will probably need two or three professional teeth-cleaning visits yearly.

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Can I just take my fingernail or a dental scaler to remove the calculus?

Dental disease occurs below the gum line. By removing calculus from the visible part of the tooth, you are not removing disease below the gum line. In order to help your pet, plaque and calculus must be removed from below the gum line.

Do you have to use anesthetics to professionally clean my pet's teeth?

Anesthesia is necessary when performing professional teeth cleaning. Anesthesia provides three important functions: immobilization in order to clean below the gum line, pain control, and the ability to place a tube into windpipe so bacterial products do not enter the respiratory system.

I am concerned about the anesthesia. Is it safe?

We take every effort to ensure anesthetics are safely administered. We use the safest of anesthetic agents. All dogs and cats are given preoperative tests, depending on their age and condition, to qualify them as candidates for anesthesia. Finally, while anesthetized, all animals are monitored with electrocardiogram oscilloscopes, blood pressure monitors, and pulse oximeters.

What is best to feed my pet?

Hard food will help remove plaque from teeth. There are special diets specifically manufactured to help keep dogs' and cats' teeth clean. Feeding these special diets in conjunction with daily brushing is the best way to keep the teeth clean. Diet alone will not control plaque, but it will help.

What toys should I avoid to protect my pet's teeth?

Chewing on objects harder than the tooth may lead to dental fractures. Be especially careful with cow and horse hooves. They commonly cause fractures of the upper cheek teeth. Do not play tug-of-war games, especially with young dogs and cats, because they can move growing teeth to abnormal location. Throwing dogs hard plastic Frisbees can also cause trauma to the teeth resulting pulpitis (an inflammation of the pulp).

What are cat cavities?

Many cats get painful lesions at the gum line that invades the teeth. The lesions are referred to as feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs). Unfortunately, we do not know what causes FORLs, and the most effective treatment involves extraction of the affected tooth. Check to see if your cat has a FORL by placing a cotton-tipped applicator to the gum line and pressing. If there is a painful lesion, your cat will chatter its jaw and must be treated.

How can I tell if my pet is suffering from periodontal disease?

The leading sign is bad breath. Dogs and cats should not have disagreeable mouth odor. Bad breath comes from infection. If your pet's breath does not smell like roses, let us examine its mouth and advise care.

What types of test are done to diagnose dental disease?

If periodontal disease is present or if your pet has a fractured tooth, an oral exam is performed while the pet is under anesthesia. A periodontal probe is used to evaluate bone loss around each tooth, just like your dental hygenist. Radiographs are taken to evaluate if teeth can be saved or need to be extracted.

When do I have to start worrying about dental problems with my pet?

As soon as puppy or kitten teeth emerge, it's time to start brushing. Although baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth, the puppy or kitten gets used to the brushing procedure, which continues for life.

What can be done if my pet has periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease occurs when tooth support structures are affected by infection. In the beginning stages, cleaning above and below the gum line as well as removal of calculus attached to the tooth will help restore periodontal health. In advanced cases, either periodontal surgery or extractions are performed. Antibiotics maybe used in addition to other treatment, but are not a substitute for home care and professional dental cleaning.

Which animals are at most risk for periodontal disease?

Smaller breeds are more prone than larger because the teeth are closer together in small dogs, and these dogs usually live longer. Terriers, Maltese, and Shih Tzus are especially prone to periodontal disease.

What can you do to fix a broken tooth?

If your dog or cat breaks its tooth, there are two treatments: root canal therapy to save the tooth or extraction. Leaving the tooth alone with an exposed nerve is not a humane option. In addition to pain, infection will develop, which can spread to vital organs. Don't wait if your dog or cat has a broken tooth.

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