1) If you are concerned about your pet’s oral health, it is best to have a veterinarian evaluate the condition of his/her mouth. An oral exam can be very informative. Deciding to treat any abnormalities will play an important role in assuring the overall health of your pet.
2, 3) Yes, dogs and cats need to have their teeth cleaned on a regular basis. As in human mouths, the bacteria in plaque accumulates on the tooth surface and causes inflammation of the gums. The plaque hardens and becomes tartar. But it is the bacteria that play an active roll in the progression of inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) to gum disease (periodontitis). This disease can be reduced with daily home care, and better controlled with professional cleanings. If gingivitis is not treated properly and in a timely fashion, it can result in gingival recession and bone loss resulting in the necessity for tooth extractions. The oral bacteria can possibly affect soft tissue organs like the kidneys, liver, and heart.
4) We recommend professional teeth cleanings once a year and home care on a daily basis. Small dogs and cats need their first professional, preventive cleaning at 1 ½ to 2 years of age, and large dogs by age 3 to 3 ½.
5) Dr. Battig recommends home care on a daily basis. This includes cleaning your pet’s teeth with toothpaste formulated for dogs and cats, and eventually using a toothbrush with the toothpaste. You start with toothpaste on your finger to clean the tooth surfaces, then wrap a small piece of cloth or gauze around your finger, or use a finger brush, to change the texture. You only need to clean the outside of the teeth (the cheek side). To achieve optimal results, we suggest a dental prescription diet, along with appropriate chew toys and dental treats. For further home care instructions and information, click here for our Home Care Tips.
6) No, you should use toothpaste that is formulated for dogs and cats. The majority of human toothpastes are detergent-based, which doesn’t work well for our pets. They haven’t figured out how to rinse and spit so the paste is foamy, and when swallowed can cause gastric irritation in some of our pets.
7) We recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush, along with toothpaste that is formulated for dogs and cats. The toothpaste is specially designed to appeal to your pet, and is available in such flavors as poultry, seafood, beef, malt, peanut butter, and vanilla-mint. The dental diets that we recommend for plaque control are Hill’s t/d, Science Diet Oral Care, Friskies Dental Diet, and Purina DH for cats. These diets are specially designed to remove plaque as your pet eats, and can result in a 40% reduction in plaque in felines, and a 29% reduction in canines. Contact your veterinarian to see which prescription diets they have available. There are also a variety of dental chews that you may use as treats, such as specific types of rawhide, firm rubber toys, stuffed animals, knotted ropes, and the list goes on. Visit www.vohc.org for the chew products and diets that have achieved the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance for tartar and plaque control.
8) One of the benefits of daily home care is becoming familiar with your pet’s mouth. This makes it easy to detect something that is abnormal. There can be something as obvious as a fractured tooth or something more subtle like a change in odor, tooth discoloration, a malpositioned tooth, or an oral growth.
9) If your pet has a discolored tooth, this could be staining from tartar accumulation, worn enamel, or a fractured tooth. It could be a non-vital tooth, or one that has pulpal hemorrhage (when the tooth has had blunt trauma which caused bleeding inside the tooth). Discolored teeth need to be brought to the attention of your veterinarian to decide how to proceed.
10) If your pet’s teeth look rotten, there could be a number of reasons why. It is best to have a veterinarian examine his/her mouth to help determine the cause, and decide how best to treat it if indicated.
11) We work as a team to minimize our anesthesia time and take the best possible care of our patients. Our licensed veterinary technicians are trained to take radiographs (dental x-rays), monitor anesthesia, maintain the equipment, perform the basic part of the cleanings, and make sure that Dr. Battig has the instruments, x-rays, and information that she needs to achieve the result for which the patient was initially seen.
12, 13) At the Animal Dental Clinic, we provide dental cleanings with the use of anesthesia. Because your pet is anesthetized, we are efficiently able to remove the tartar from the crown of the tooth, as well as under the gum-line. This is where tartar accumulates without notice and results in gum disease. We are also able to assess the severity of gum disease, take intraoral radiographs (x-rays), and polish. Polishing each tooth is important, as it slows the accumulation of plaque. Without anesthesia, we cannot effectively protect your pet from inhaling pieces of tartar removed from the teeth, or water from the ultrasonic scaler. We maintain our patients on inhalant anesthesia with an endotracheal tube in place in order to breathe the gas and protect the airway. Additionally, when scaling the tartar from the teeth while the patient is awake, there is a risk of injuring the patient’s gum tissue when they move or jerk their head in response to the dental instruments. The restraint needed for this "cleaning" can also cause unnecessary stress to your pet.
14) For most healthy pets, anesthesia does not have a negative impact. To insure our patients’ safety, we obtain a detailed medical history and review recent blood work. We perform a thorough physical exam before anesthesia. Our patients receive a customized pre-medication, are placed on intravenous fluids, and maintained on oxygen and the lowest dose required of inhaled gas anesthetic. All patients are closely monitored for the duration of the procedure, which includes heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure, CO2, and oxygen saturation. We tailor each anesthetic protocol toward individual patient needs.
15) Each pet can have a different type of recovery following an anesthetic procedure. Your pet is closely monitored after anesthesia, and precautions are taken to make sure they have a smooth and safe recovery. Some patients wake up very quickly, while others may take a little more time. All patients are fully awake and walking before we send them home.
16) The most commonly fractured tooth in the dog from chewing on things that are too hard, is the upper 4th premolar. The chew toys to avoid are bones, nylon bones, hooves, and super compressed rawhide bones. The majority of fractures result in exposure of the pulp of the tooth. Teeth with pulp exposure eventually die, become infected, and ultimately form an abscess. Fractured teeth need to be treated by extraction or root canal therapy.
The canine teeth in dogs and cats are very commonly fractured as well. This is the result of trauma of some type. Cats jump off fences, out of trees, off of refrigerators and countertops, with the tips of the canine teeth fracturing. Dogs can run into parked cars, chew chain link fences, catch rocks, or are the recipients of the back swing of a golf club or a baseball bat when trying to catch the ball. These teeth are important and would best be saved with root canal therapy.
17) A freshly fractured tooth is painful, and should be treated with pain medications from your veterinarian. We recommend a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), which treats both pain and inflammation. This pain may persist for as few as 5 days and up to 10 days after the fracture has occurred.
18) Yes, root canals can be performed on dogs’ teeth as well as cats’ teeth. This is one option which you and Dr. Battig can discuss during your consultation, and decide if this is the best choice for your pet.
19) Yes. A fractured tooth that has pulp exposure needs to be treated. The two options for treatment are root canal therapy or extraction. Your pet should have an oral exam when you first notice a fractured tooth to determine the severity of the fracture, whether or not there is pulp exposure, and to make a dental treatment plan. If your pet is very young, 6–16 months, it should be seen as soon as the tooth is fractured to consider the option of a vital pulpotomy.
20) If there is no apparent pulp exposure, a veterinarian should asses the comfort of your pet’s tooth, the proximity of the fracture to the pulp canal, and make a plan based on the exam. If the fracture is recent and close to the pulp without exposure, a restorative procedure may be the best option. Restoratives will reduce sensitivity and may prevent further damage.
21) A fractured tooth with pulp exposure that is not treated will die and eventually develop an abscess at the tip of the root of the tooth. Each pet is different, but most tooth root abscesses can take months to form. We recommend that your veterinarian perform an oral exam as soon as you notice the fracture.
22) Frequently you don’t know that a tooth is in trouble. Our pets are not good at communicating these things to us. You might see changes in chewing, more tartar on the side opposite the fracture from not chewing, or loss of interest in food or chew toys. Signs of a long-standing abscess include facial swelling, “pawing” at the mouth, or other changes in behavior. An abscess is diagnosed with intraoral radiographs (x-rays).
23) Dr. Battig will recommend an extraction if she thinks that it will benefit the patient medically. Some teeth just don’t belong in the mouth. If extractions are indicated, the likelihood of postoperative complications are minimal. We use pain medication before, during, and after the extraction(s). Our patients go home on a soft diet while the tissue at the extraction site heals. The risks are greater if the tooth or teeth are not treated or extracted. The potential for infection, pain, or disease progression will far out way any negative effects of extraction.
24) Dental radiographs (x-rays) are important to successfully diagnose the condition and treat it appropriately. Only the crown of the tooth can be seen when you do an oral exam. Therefore dental images are required to evaluate the anatomy of the rest of the tooth - the tooth root, the socket of the tooth and surrounding bone, and the periodontal ligament that attaches the root to the bone. By visualizing these structures, we can determine the extent of bone loss, the presence of an abscess, severity of a tooth or jaw fracture, or evaluate feline tooth resorption. We use dental radiographs to diagnose missing teeth, or teeth that are trapped in the bone and can’t erupt. Dental radiographs are imperative when doing root canals in order to visualize the pulp canal entirety, and make sure the end result is what we expect.
25) Feline tooth resorption (also known as feline resorptive lesions) is a very common problem in cats. Unfortunately, the cause is unknown. This condition progressively destroys the root of the tooth and eventually the crown of the tooth. It exposes the dentin, resulting in incredible sensitivity. Common signs are pain, grinding teeth, decreased appetite with subsequent weight loss, increased salivation, and aversion to the food bowl. Dental x-rays are necessary to accurately diagnose the stage of disease and treat accordingly.
26) Feline stomatitis is a chronic inflammation of the soft tissues of the mouth (gingiva and mucosa). It is also known as gingivostomatitis, lymphoplasmacytic stomatitis, or more accurately--mucositis. The main cause is an altered immune response to oral bacteria. Without treatment, there is persistent pain, and gingival recession and bone loss from chronic inflammation. The first step in treating this disease is to decrease inflammation and to control pain.
27) Being a veterinary dental specialist, Dr. Battig also evaluates the occlusion of dogs and cats, and can perform orthodontic movement of teeth when indicated. There are situations when a bite can be adjusted by moving a tooth (or teeth). Our goal is to restore comfort and function. Dr. Battig can discuss options with you at your consultation. Early recognition and treatment is the key to preventing pain, discomfort, or the development of a more severe abnormality.
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