February is Pet Dental Awareness Month and is approaching fast. Many of us try to avoid the dentist, but understand the importance of good dental care. Dental care is an important part of a pet’s health. Similar to us, poor dental care can result in bad breath, gingivitis, tooth root abscesses, infections, and pain. We’re here to debunk a few myths and provide a few tips on dental care.
Myth#3: “My pet doesn’t need dental care, they eat dry food and dental chews” Chewing on Captain Crunch doesn’t keep our teeth clean despite being crunchy. Unless specifically formulated for dental care, most kibbles offer very little as far as dental prevention goes. No matter how diligent we are about brushing, we still require some dental work on occasion. Dental chews help a little, but are not the mainstay preventative measure.
Home dental care is a great way to slow down the development of dental disease and prevent oral pain and infection in our pets, as well as $ave some big buck$ in the long run by reducing the amount of dental procedures required! Small dogs are especially prone to tartar buildup. Daily brushing is a great way to reduce tartar buildup and formation. Just remember to use pet friendly edible toothpaste (the artificial sweetener xylitol in our toothpaste is toxic to cats and dogs). If brushing is not a feasible option, consider a dental diet, which is comparable to brushing due to the diet’s special composition of the kibble. There are numerous other chews, water additives, supplements and toys that can help to control dental disease which can be used in conjunction with either brushing or a dental diet. Speak to your veterinarian about other options.
Myth#2: “My pet is too old for an anesthetic” I’d be lying if I said general anesthesia was without risk, and for some patients with complicating factors, we will elect not to proceed due to these concerns. But general anesthesia has come a long way and is quite safe in an otherwise healthy individual, even our geriatric patients. The risk of having chronic abscesses and infection in the gums and jawbone is in many cases much greater than the risk of anesthesia.
There are a growing number of non-veterinary establishments offering ‘anesthetic free dental cleanings’. Removing tartar from the visible tooth is not a bad thing, although in many cases is just cosmetic as the real periodontal disease is below the gum line where it is frequently not visible. For some animals, this can also be an extremely stressful procedure. To properly perform dental work on animals, general anesthesia is required. This allows us to safely and thoroughly clean below the gum line, properly evaluate all the teeth, take radiographs if needed, freeze the gums and remove infected or abscessed teeth. While root canals and crowns are available in some cases, most frequently abscessed teeth are simply removed as animals do very well without them and it is a more cost friendly option.
Myth#1: “It doesn’t hurt because my pet is still eating” Anyone who has had a tooth abscess knows that they hurt, and our pets are no different. The only difference is that they cannot express it in the same way that we can.
Every pet is different with regards to how frequently they require dental work. There are many things you can do at home to reduce the amount of dental work needed. Have a look in your pet’s mouth on a regular basis. If you can see signs of gingivitis, tartar buildup, or if you notice bad breath, consider a dental consult with your veterinarian to determine if dental work is recommended and how urgently it should be pursued. We are here to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have, and ensure your pet is happy and healthy!