Dental Disease & The Need To Schedule Regular Cleanings

Monty Lab GreyboyPeriodontal disease is a very serious problem in both cats and dogs. Tartar buildup is a result of bacterial infection in the mouth. This causes irritation of the gums around the base of the teeth (gingivitis), resulting in exposure of the roots. Ultimately, this leads to infection, pain and tooth loss. Once this bacteria becomes attached to the teeth BELOW THE GUM line, it becomes a “seed” of infection that spreads all over the body. Many respiratory, kidney, liver, and heart infections are a result of bacteria spreading from the mouth. It is important to note that the “real” problem is what you don’t see (what is below the gum line) rather than what you do see (above the gum line). What you don’t see can certainly be slowly killing your pet. Dental exams, routine use of dental hygiene products, and dental scaling/polishing are important for a healthy mouth.

Isn't it correct that pet’s that eat dry pet food don't have tartar buildup?

There are many misconceptions about tartar buildup in dogs and cats. Diet is probably much less important than most people think. Because dry food is not as sticky as canned food, it does not adhere to the teeth as much and thus, does not cause tartar buildup as rapidly. However, eating dry food does not remove tartar from the teeth. Once tartar forms, a professional cleaning is necessary.

One of the main factors determining the amount of tartar buildup is the individual chemistry in the mouth. Most pets need yearly cleanings.

What does tartar do to the teeth?
If tartar is allowed to remain on the teeth, several things may happen:

  1. The tartar will mechanically push the gums away from the roots of the teeth. This allows the teeth to loosen in their sockets and infection to enter the root socket. The teeth will loosen and fall out or have to be extracted.
  2. Infection will accumulate in the mouth, resulting in gingivitis, tonsillitis, and pharyngitis (sore throat). Although antibiotics may temporarily suppress the infection, if the tartar is not removed from the teeth, infection will return quickly.
  3. Infection within the mouth will be picked up by the blood stream and carried to other parts of the body. Kidney infections, as well as infections involving the heart valves, frequently begin in the mouth.

What is involved in cleaning my pet's teeth?
Proper cleaning of the teeth requires complete cooperation of the patient so plaque and tartar can be removed properly. Anesthesia may be required to thoroughly clean the teeth if your pet suffers severe buildup, broken teeth, need for extractions or is a high caution/agressive pet. Although anesthesia always carries a degree of risk, the modern anesthetics in use in our hospital minimize this risk, even for older animals.  Our hospital always offers Non-anesthetic Dentistry as an option dependent upon your pets specific needs.

There are four steps in the cleaning process that will be used on your pet:

  1. Scaling removes the tartar above and below the gum line. This is done with hand instruments and ultrasonic cleaning equipment.
  2. Polishing smoothes the surface of the teeth, making them resistant to additional plaque formation.
  3. Flushing removes dislodged tartar from the teeth and helps to remove the bacteria that accompany tartar.
  4. Fluoride coating decreases teeth sensitivity, strengthens enamel, and decreases the rate of future plaque formation.Dental-Prophylaxis

What type of scheduling, preparation and aftercare is needed for an anesthetic teeth cleaning?
In order for us to clean your pet's teeth, we ask that you schedule the procedure a few days in advance. It will be necessary to withhold food after 9 PM the night before; please do not remove the water. Your pet should be admitted to the hospital early (by 9 AM) and will generally be ready for discharge in the late afternoon. He/She will need to stay indoors that evening to insure that no accidents (falls, etc.) occur until complete recovery from anesthesia. If that is not possible, you may elect to have your pet spend the night in the hospital. He/She should be fed and watered lightly that evening and returned to normal feeding the next morning, at which time he/she should be completely recovered from the anesthetic.

What Can You Do To Help Maintain Your Pet's Dental Health?
Looking at your pet’s mouth is just not a normal thing for someone to do, but maybe it should be.  Brushing your pet's teeth daily is the best way to keep those pearly whites clean.  Alternative dental care, may include a diet that decreases tartar from attaching to the teeth, using an oral rinse to decrease the bacterial count in the mouth, enzadent chews as a treat or oravet.

How do I brush my pet's teeth?

To see a "Brushing your cat's teeth" video provided by Cornell University, please click on the link below.


Additional Informative Pet Dental Facts:


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