February is celebrated as National Pet Dental Month. This has been a great way to promote dental health in our pets but in a way it’s a cop-out; it should be every day, not once a year. Most of the animals we see are not pets but family members. I would bet you have at least 3-5 nicknames for your dog or cat, buy them Christmas gifts and tell them things you wouldn’t confide in anyone else. Okay, so we consider them human or darn close to it. We floss daily, brush 2-3 times a day, see the dentist every 6 months ot have our teeth cleaned (and yes they find tartar at every visit), and have radiographs taken every 1-2 years even if no issues are found on the exam. So why are we surprised that after doing nothing for year after year that our pet’s mouth is a cesspool and why do we allow it? The 3 most common answers I receive are that the owner was unaware of the problem, they are afraid of anesthesia and that cost is a factor. Let’s discuss some basic companion animal dental facts first, then come back to address the other two reasons.
Dogs have 42 teeth and cats have 30. Current literature states that 68-85% of all dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease. Most veterinarians would argue that the incidence is much higher. The problem is not just a cosmetic one. Plaque, a sticky film produced by bacteria, forms within a few hours of a meal and hardens to tartar within 24 hours, supplying the bacteria with a place to multiply as well as physically pushes the gum away from the tooth exposing the roots. This enables the bacteria to enter the bloodstream where it can cause damage to the heart, kidneys and liver. Recent research shows routine dental cleanings can extend the average pet’s life by two years. Gingivitis that is left untreated can lead to irreversible periodontal disease destroying the bone and ligaments supporting the teeth and eventually tooth loss. Unfortunately pain beings with early gingivitis, just think about the tenderness the last time you flossed too hard or the discomfort when a piece of popcorn got stuck in your teeth. The signs of oral pain and dental disease are subtle and can include persistent bad breath, sensitivity around the mouth or head, pawing at the mouth, loss of appetite or reluctance to eat, bleeding, swollen, receding gums, loose or missing teeth, difficulty eating or chewing, chewing on one side only, dropping food or swallowing food whole, shaking the head or weight loss. Alas due to their survival instinct, vocalization and total lack of appetite is almost never seen. An animal with suffer silently while in considerable pain and continue to eat had food much to the amazement of their owners.
So what should you do to prevent this from happening to your family member? Just like with your human children the first step is an oral exam to grade any disease that is already present and design an individualized treatment plan for your furry friend. This may be as simple as introducing you and your pet to the basics of brushing, setting up for a routine cleaning or as complex as periodontal surgery, dental radiographs and extractions. The hard reality of canine and feline dentistry is that just like our human counterparts, it is the home care that makes or breaks the pet’s chances to have great oral health. Does this mean if you cannot brush your pet’s teeth there is no hope? Definitely not! We have multiple options to us including:
Non-fluoride enzymatic toothpaste in a variety of flavors that appeal to dogs and cats
Antibacterial gels, rinse and water additives
Plaque reducing enzymatic chews
Sealants that can be applied at the time of a professional cleaning and also can be used weekly at home.
Specially formulated plaque and tartar reducing foods.
This brings us back to the concerns of anesthesia and cost. Once we assess your pet’s oral health and set up a treatment plan with diligent home care, you can make a huge difference in the number of times your pets needs to have their teeth professionally cleaned. Animal dentistry has made amazing progress in the last 10 years and we now have the same equipment and radiographic capabilities as your own dentist, very safe anesthesia and can perform surgical extractions as well as root canals. If we can peek at those teeth several times per year and catch the early stages of dental disease we can truly do routine cleanings versus involved periodontal therapy with multiple extractions and the savings to your pet’s health and your pocket will be evident. For further information contact us at 717-477-8938 or visit HYPERLINK "http://www.cetdental.com" www.cetdental.com or www.PetDental.com