Is your pet due for their annual professional veterinary dental cleaning? Maintaining your pet’s oral health is paramount to their overall health, and this procedure is vital for achieving this goal. Since February is National Pet Dental Health Month, our team at Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital wants to answer some frequently asked questions about professional veterinary dental cleanings, so you know what to expect before you book your pet’s appointment.
Question: Why does my pet need a professional veterinary cleaning?
Answer: Periodontal disease is a progressive, inflammatory disease that attacks the supporting tissues and structures of the teeth. This condition is the main cause of early tooth loss in dogs and cats, and affects more than 87% of dogs and 70% of cats older than 3 years of age. Periodontal disease has four stages.
- Stage 1 — Inflammation of the gums, a condition called gingivitis, is the first stage of periodontal disease in pets. At this stage, no bone loss has occurred, and the tooth is firmly attached. Typically, no obvious signs are present at this point, but subtle signs may include red or puffy gums, gums that bleed when your pet chews on objects, and bad breath.
- Stage 2 — The second stage of periodontal disease involves the loss of 25% or less of the tooth’s attachment to the supporting structures. Mild bone loss can be appreciated on X-rays at this point, and the pet will have mildly abnormal periodontal pocket depths. Signs include red, puffy, or bleeding gums, bad breath, and possibly receded gums.
- Stage 3 — The third stage of periodontal disease involves the loss of 25% to 50% of the tooth’s attachment to the supporting structures. Moderate to severe bone loss can be appreciated on X-rays, and abnormal periodontal pocket depths will be present. Signs include red, puffy, or bleeding gums, bad breath, moderate gum recession, and possibly loose teeth.
- Stage 4 — The fourth stage of periodontal disease involves the loss of greater than 50% of the tooth’s attachment to the supporting structures. Severe bone loss can be appreciated on X-rays, and deep periodontal pockets will be present. Signs include tooth root exposure, loose teeth, missing teeth, and potentially abscessation around teeth. Any tooth in this stage of periodontal disease must be extracted.
Inflamed, bleeding gums and loose teeth are painful for your pet. In addition, as the bacteria invade the jawbones, fractures can occur, especially in cats and toy-breed dogs. The bacteria can also enter your pet’s bloodstream and damage multiple organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys, which can lead to life-threatening consequences for your pet.
Q: Why does my pet need blood work to have a professional veterinary dental cleaning?
A: Your pet will need to go under general anesthesia to receive a comprehensive professional veterinary dental cleaning, and we will need to perform a complete blood count and a biochemistry panel to ensure they are generally healthy enough, and their kidney and liver function are satisfactory for anesthesia.
Q: Why does my pet need general anesthesia for a professional veterinary dental cleaning?
A: We have to use sharp instruments to remove the plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth, and from under their gum line, which cannot be adequately or safely performed if your pet is awake. We will initially give your pet an injectable sedative, and intubate them to ensure they remain at appropriate oxygen levels, and to keep water and other materials from entering their lungs during the procedure. We will closely monitor your pet’s vitals throughout the process, and adjust their anesthesia level as needed.
Q: Why does my pet need X-rays to have a professional veterinary dental cleaning?
A: Full mouth X-rays are needed to evaluate your pet’s teeth, because bone loss can’t be appreciated by simply examining your pet’s mouth. X-rays also provide images of broken teeth and roots, dead teeth, abscesses, and jaw fractures.
Q: What happens when my pet undergoes a professional veterinary dental cleaning?
A: Once your pet is asleep, our veterinary professionals perform a complete oral exam, checking for periodontal pocketing, loose teeth, and any other abnormalities. Loose, fractured, or otherwise unhealthy teeth will be extracted, a process that can be simple or time-consuming, depending on the tooth’s status. Once we have addressed your pet’s abnormalities, we use a periodontal scaler to remove tartar and plaque from the teeth and under the gum line, and then polish the teeth to prevent plaque and tartar from attaching to the rough tooth surface. After we thoroughly rinse out your pet’s mouth, we closely monitor them until they recover.
Q: Does my pet need a professional veterinary dental cleaning if I brush their teeth every day?
A: Yes. While brushing your pet’s teeth greatly complements a professional veterinary dental cleaning, the practice isn’t comparable to the procedure a veterinary professional can provide. However, we do recommend that you brush your pet’s teeth daily. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about brushing your pet’s teeth.
- Why is brushing my pet’s teeth important? — After a dental cleaning, plaque begins to form in as little as six hours, making regular brushing an important part of your pet’s oral hygiene program.
- Can I use human toothpaste? — No. Human dental products contain ingredients that are not meant to be ingested by pets, and they can cause internal problems if your pet swallows while you are brushing their teeth. You should also avoid using baking soda because of the high alkaline content, and, if swallowed, can upset the acid balance in your pet’s stomach and digestive tract.
Professional veterinary dental cleanings and regular toothbrushing are a great combination to maintain your pet’s oral health. Contact our team at Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital, to schedule your pet’s dental cleaning as soon as possible. We especially love to talk about dental health during February, and we would love to see your pet this month, but we schedule dental cleanings all year long!