Last Updated: 3-26-2019
Our dogs and cats have teeth and use their mouths for more than just eating! Caring for their teeth is an important part of their over healthcare and it’s an investment that can reap great dividends. Once they reach six months, most if not all of a pet’s adult teeth have erupted. Dogs should have 42 teeth and cats 30. Some dental problems start early with crowded mouths in micro breeds and malocclusions such as narrow based canines. Other dogs may suffer from unerupted teeth that if left undetected can form painful and destructive dentigerous cysts.
Genetics also plays a big role in the likelihood of periodontal disease as it does in humans. Small breeds with crowded mouths have much higher incidence. Large breed dogs often can have healthy mouths without significant intervention.
With each spay and neuter we perform, we include a tooth inventory. We make sure that all teeth are there and dental radiographs are performed to evaluate any abnormalities.
Deciduous teeth that have not fallen out are extracted to decrease the risk of periodontal disease due to the crowding.
We recommend home dental care starting as pups and kittens. Just like little humans, our pets need training and enticement to get the job done. As with any behavior, we need to create an experience that is positive and the pet looks forward to the task. Paste with taste and make it fun! And be consistent.
We have chicken flavored toothpaste, dental wipes and water additives such as cinnamon, peach and peanut butter from Healthy Mouth. Toothpaste is not any more effective than just water but it’s adds an enticing flavor to the experience and my cats love it.
Any product you use should have the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal (VOHC) on it. Think of it as the American Dental Association (ADA) for pets! I am not a fan of using the small rubber finger brushes. The rubber prongs on finger brushes are not delicate enough to disrupt the biofilm that becomes tartar.
There are also dental diets, chews and toys. None will replace brushing. Some that are advertised to help such as hooves and antlers can help but they can also harm by causing fractures. Not every dog that chews on an antler or hoof breaks a tooth but I can tell you every dog that I see with a tooth fracture has chewed on one. The rule that I like to follow is if it hurts to hit you in the knee with it, you should not let your pet chew on it.
A few little tips:
- Keep the animal’s mouth shut while you brush. Gently hold the muzzle.
- Approach slowly with the animal’s back towards you. Guide the toothbrush or wipe on your finger across the teeth. Ideally at a 45 degree angle to keep the gingiva health as well.
- Goal 30 seconds each side but don’t think of it as just a time. Don’t rush and make it unpleasant. The back molars are definitely hard to sometimes reach but even if the animal is just chewing on the brush, that is helpful.
- Periodically lift them lip and check and see how you are doing. Finish it off with a reward for both you and the pet!
- Goal daily!
Even with home dental care, periodontal disease will still occur. Home dental care is not treatment for periodontal disease. It is a preventative measure when done at the right time. Is not something that we are doing to our pets, but for them. Think of all we do to help keep our teeth healthy and professional care and cleanings are a huge part of a healthy mouth for us humans. The great thing about periodontal disease is that it is a treatable disease!
Professional cleanings are done here at our office and are also called “COHATS”. COHAT stands for complete oral health assessment and treatment. After performing physical exams, bloodwork and possibly radiographs to ensure anesthetic safety for your pet, they are admitted for a day case procedure.
After an admit examination, the patient is pre-medicated and then anesthetized with pain medications on board. Full mouth digital dental radiographs are performed after an oral examination. These radiographs are so critical as more than half of the tooth is under the gum line. Think of it like the tip of any iceberg.
Throughout the procedure, the pet is kept on a circulating water blanket to maintain body temperature. They are monitored with our doctor, technician and a multi-parameter machine that evaluates heart rate, respiratory rate, electrocardiogram, pulse oximetry, blood pressure as well as end tidal C02!
Each tooth is then examined to evaluate whether it is healthy or if it needs to be extracted. There are several factors that determine this. Our pets don’t need teeth to be healthy, they need a pain free mouth. The teeth that do not need to be extracted have the tartar and plaque removed by ultrasonic scaling. Teeth that need to be removed are surgically extracted with special drills that allow for sectioning and removal of entire roots.
Special flaps with absorbable suture are used to close after the extractions. Once all the extractions are performed and all the other teeth are cleaned, we make sure all the notes are documented. Trim nails, check ears and head into recovery!
The pets head home a few hours after their procedure on pain medication and soft food until their recheck examination two weeks later.
Some pets may have one or two teeth extracted, some have many. Extractions are beneficial as they treat pain, overcrowding and only need to be done once. Once the site is healed up, our pets can eat hard food and treats.
It’s great our animals don’t complain about oral pain but it is also bad that they don’t and suffer needlessly! Please talk to us at your pets exam about what you can do to health their health with home dental care.
I love to follow Dr Fraser Hale, an amazing dentist and educator from Canada. Here is his link for home dental care:
and info on the Healthy Mouth products we sell: