February is National Dental Health Month! How long has it been since your pets last dental cleaning? Dental disease is the most common clinical condition seen in pets and usually you start to see signs by age 3. Dental hygiene is very important to your pets overall health as dental disease not only affects the teeth but if untreated can also affect the internal organs.  Yearly or bi-annual dental cleanings are the most effective way to treat dental disease.

You may have already noticed some of the signs of dental disease such as bad breath or plaque on the teeth. Other more significant signs you may see are redness or inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and loss of bone or gum tissue around the teeth (periodontis). There is a wide range of appearance of dental disease and it is usually graded on a scale or 1, being very mild, to 5, being very severe. In some cases the bigger problem is tartar under the gum line which can lead to infection and sometimes loss of the tooth. Untreated dental disease can also cause damage to the internal organs and the immune system. Antibiotics before a dental cleaning can help lessen some of the bacteria on the teeth.

Dental cleanings under anesthesia are the best and most effective treatment of tartar build-up. Once the teeth are thoroughly cleaned, the teeth are then probed to check for periodontal pockets which can indicate loss of bone or an abscess in the tooth root. We then take radiographs of the teeth to check the roots to see if we may have to extract any teeth. Other signs a tooth may need extracted are a loose, fractured, or a broken tooth. We may also see a furcation which is when the tooth has receded from the gum and creates spaces in between the tooth root and the gums. These types of conditions are causes for extraction and if the teeth are left in they will cause the dental disease to come back in a few months.

Prevention of dental disease is very important to your pets’ health and should always be discussed at your yearly vet visits. Daily teeth brushing can help prevent some of the plaque and tartar build-up. Some prescription foods, rinses, and water and food additives can play a role in the prevention of dental disease as well. Getting your pets teeth cleaned under anesthesia when directed by your veterinarian is the best method and can be a great way to keep your pets teeth healthy and keep the cost down for the cleanings.  If you notice any signs of dental disease or bad breath in your pet, talk with your veterinarian to determine your pets grade of dental disease and if they need a dental cleaning  You keep your teeth healthy, so let’s work together to keep their teeth healthy too!