Periodontal disease is simply inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth. Accumulation of tartar (calculus) on the teeth contributes to gum recession around the base of the tooth. Infection soon follows and the gums recede. Untreated infection then spreads into the tooth socket and ultimately the tooth loosens and is lost. The infection can then also be carried into the blood stream and affect other organs. This can lead to organ failure if not treated promptly.
The mouth of all mammals is home to thousands of bacteria. Many of these bacteria will breed on the surfaces of the tooth and form an invisible layer called plaque or biofilm. Some of this is removed naturally by the dog’s tongue and chewing habits but if allowed to remain the plaque thickens, becomes mineralized and is then visible as tartar (calculus). The tartar presses on the gums, which recede, and the bacteria then result in gum inflammation and infection (gingivitis).
Plaque and tartar can begin forming in as little as six hours after your pet’s dental cleaning. Establish a routine of daily brushing of your dog’s teeth with a soft toothbrush. Use a circular motion with the emphasis or the stroke away from the gum line.
Do not use human dentifrice or toothpaste on any account. These are foaming products and are not meant to be swallowed. Additionally, many types of human toothpaste contain sodium, which may cause problems in some pets. CET toothpaste can be used, and there are several palatable flavors to choose from. We currently carry poultry, malt, and vanilla mint flavor.
While not a complete substitute for brushing, dental diets such as Hill’s T/D or Purina DH have been proven to decrease the rate of calculus and plaque formation.
Home oral hygiene is important to maintain your pet’s dental health between professional cleanings. The frequency of professional cleaning will vary with your pet’s individual needs. Some pets need a cleaning every 6 months, talk with one of our veterinarians for more information regarding frequency.
The goal of dental scaling is to remove the tartar and invisible plaque. We highly recommend pre-anesthetic bloodwork to ensure that kidneys and liver function is satisfactory. Sometimes antibiotics are started prior to a dental cleaning. This is based on the level of infection in the mouth. One of our technicians or veterinarians will be happy to discuss this with you further.
Tooth scaling will be done both by hand and ultrasonic cleaning equipment to remove tartar both above and below the gum line. It is very similar to how your dentist will clean your teeth. The tartar below the gum line causes the most significant gum recession. After the teeth have been cleaned they are polished to help prevent subsequent plaque build-up.
Dental x-rays are taken in order to check the tooth surfaces underneath the gum line to ensure there is no bone loss, root absorptions, abscesses, or pockets. We evaluate the x-rays in conjunction with the physical appearance of the teeth and gums to determine if any teeth need to be removed.
All of the above procedures will be discussed with you both before your pet’s dental cleaning and the day of the procedure if you have any additional questions or concerns. We may call you during the procedure to discuss treatment plan based on findings such as the need for extraction or biopsy.
Dental Cleaning, Why we do what we do:
· Pre-Surgical Exam: Companion Pet Clinic requires that we see your pet for a physical examination within 30 days prior to any anesthetic procedure. This is to make sure that your pet appears healthy prior to anesthesia.
· Pre-Op Blood work: Depending on your pets age/health status we will require pre-anesthetic blood work prior to the procedure, for some pets this is optional. This includes: o Complete blood count (CBC): Checking for signs of infection and anemia. o Chemistry panel: Checking internal organ functions (i.e. liver and kidney function). o Electrolytes: Checking sodium, chloride, and potassium levels in the body to monitor hydration status and muscle and nerve contractability. o Even if your pet has blood work within normal ranges it is always good to have a baseline to look at in the future in case of any illness.
· IV Fluids: We require the placement of an intravenous catheter during all dental procedures. I.V. fluids support your pet’s cardiovascular system before, during, and after surgery. I.V catheters also allow direct access to a vein in case of emergency. Medications can be administered most efficiently when a catheter is in place.
· Anesthesia: Your pet may only be under anesthesia for a short amount of time if they only require a routine dental cleaning with minimal to no extractions. The worse your pets teeth are, the harder/longer to clean them and the more likely that extractions may be needed. Longer dental cleanings and multiple extractions means longer anesthesia and increased cost.
· Dentistry: This involves basically the same procedures that you would have done at your routine cleaning with your dentist. We scale all of the plaque and calculus off the teeth, probe for any unseen pockets that could be painful or damaging. We x-ray all the teeth to look for underlying infection, abscess, and bone loss. We look at each tooth carefully for any root exposure that could cause pain to your pet. Then, all teeth are polished with special toothpaste, and rough surfaces are smoothed out so that plaque has a harder time adhering to your pet’s teeth in the future.
· Extractions: It can be difficult to know exactly how good or bad your pet’s teeth are during a physical exam. Once we have your pet under anesthesia and with the help of dental x-rays we can properly examine each tooth. If it is determined that a tooth is damaged, infected, or possibly causing your pet pain we would recommend removal of that tooth. Sometimes patients need to have all of their teeth extracted in order to resolve pain and other issues, this is rare but can be necessary to improve the quality of life for your pet.
· Gel Foam Cubes and Absorbable Sutures: Gel foam cubes are made of a type of material that helps to clot blood at the site of the extraction/s. Absorbable sutures are dissolvable stitches that we place in the gums where any extractions were done to close open root spaces or gingival flaps.
· Pain Injection and Pain Medications to Go Home: We will give your pet a pain injection once they are awake and alert, this injection will last 24 hours. We will send you home with pain medication to be given as directed. Animals don’t always communicate their pain in obvious ways. So it’s important that we use pain control and advocate for them.
· Antibiotics: Even in a normal mouth there can be a lot of bacteria, so you can imagine an unhealthy mouth would be even worse. Sometimes we will recommend antibiotics for your pet before and/or after a dental cleaning to prevent the spread of infection as much as possible.