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Dental Disease in Cats and Dogs

Dental Disease in Cats and Dogs

Neil Stuttle

Most cats and dogs over 3 years old  will have evidence of dental disease.  Dental conditions we commonly see in the clinic include peridontal disease, broken teeth, retained temporary teeth and feline resorptive lesions. The outward signs of dental disease include  smelly breath, dribbling, difficulty eating, lethargy and facial swelling. Often  there are no outward signs of dental disease in your pets behaviour until the disease becomes severe.  I will outline two of the most common dental conditions  to highlight the importance of  regular dental check ups as part of your pets annual health check. 

Peridontal disease

This is the most common clinical condition we see and is caused by bacteria and food sticking to the surface of teeth.  This material is called plaque.  Minerals present in  saliva then harden the plaque to form tartar. Tartar forms above and below the gum line trapping in bacteria leading to infection under the gum. This infection causes the gums to become red and inflamed ( gingivitis ). If left untreated this infection extends to the bone supporting the tooth causing bone loss and tooth loosening. In severe cases this infection leads to high levels of bacteria being released into the blood stream and can cause heart, liver and kidney problems. 

Tartar that is present on a tooth has to be removed manually in a process called scaling. This is performed under a general anesthetic as we can't tell our patients to open wide and not  bite! Following scaling the teeth are polished to smooth the tooth surface to limit the  accumulation of further plaque. Thus our standard dental procedure is known as the " Scale and polish ". 

Teeth that are loose due to bone loss or have deep gum recession need to be removed to prevent ongoing pain and disease. Often it is hard to determine that a tooth needs to be removed until the tartar is removed. If there is considerable tartar present we will warn you that tooth extractions may be needed prior to the dental procedure. 

Prevention and management of periodontal disease involves limiting plaque build up and bacterial infection. This can be achieved by a number of ways including daily tooth brushing, anti bacterial mouth washes, dental chews and formulated diets.  We can discuss with you which is best for your pet. 

Broken Teeth

We see broken teeth commonly in dogs that are fed bones or chew on rocks. If a tooth is broken low enough down to expose the root than removal (extraction) is usually required. It is important to remember that even though our pets are domesticated they retain the trait that wild animals have to hide pain.  Cats and dogs have the same basic tooth anatomy as humans and I am sure anyone one who

has needed a root canal filling can relate to the pain from an infected tooth! If you see a broken tooth in your pet get it checked.

Our approach to dental procedures has advanced greatly and we now can offer digital oral x rays to improve our diagnostic capability, local anesthetics are routinely used to enhance  dental pain relief and there are referral  dental vets  now available for more advanced procedures.  The first step is a thorough dental exam so if your pet is overdue come in and see us  so we can  "lift the lip "  and get your pets teeth checked.


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