- Is dentistry without anaesthesia O.K. for my pet?
- If my pet has a broken tooth, is it in pain?
- If my pet has a broken tooth, can I just leave it?
- My vet said to just take the tooth out, is there anything else that can be done?
- What are the signs of poor oral health?
- What can I do at home to prevent problems?
- How does dental care help my pet in the long run?
- What other pets may need dental care?
- How often does my pet need a professional teeth clean?
- My pet is fed a 'natural diet'; I have been told this will prevent problems. Is this true?
Dental scaling with your pet awake is potentially harmful to your pet and the personnel in attendance. If someone has offered you this service without an anaesthetic and has said it is beneficial for your pet, this information is misleading.
The only procedure we would perform without using an anaesthetic is to remove large and obvious calculus deposits on the exterior surface of the tooth. This does not treat true dental disease, since most dental disease of importance originates below the gum line.
The areas which require treatment are the crevices between teeth, the tooth surface that lies against the tongue and most significantly - the areas underneath the gums.
The instruments we use are sharp and can lead to painful injury if the pet moves suddenly.
Manual scraping leaves scratches and etch marks on the tooth surfaces - this damaged enamel enables further, and more rapidly progressing, plaque and calculi deposits to form in the future if polishing is not performed immediately following scaling.
Finally, dental x-rays cannot be performed on a patient who is awake, and as more than 50% of the tooth's anatomy lies below the gum line, dental x-rays are often critical in the diagnosis of dental disease.
Conscious tooth scaling will harm your pet and result in additional future costs - such as routine prophylaxis (scale and polishing treatments) being required sooner than if polishing had followed scaling, and wounds caused by instruments harming the mouth when the pet has moved.
Often I will hear clients say - "But he is still eating", "He isn't showing signs of pain".
In fact, dogs and cats once lived in large hunting groups. The weak were left behind to fend for themselves without food, so for these animals; there is a strong evolutionary incentive to mask pain.
I would ask clients the question - "Does a broken tooth hurt for you?" Just because a pet may not show its pain or might express it differently, a broken tooth is going to cause your pet the same intense pain you would experience yourself.
What are the signs of tooth pain in my pet?
- Refusing to eat hard foot or treats
- Pawing at the mouth
- Becoming anti-social
- Development of a jaw chatter
- Squinting in one eye
- Food dropping from one side of the mouth
- Swelling, or drainage, from one side of the face
No. Your pet is in pain. If it has been broken for some time, the nerve may have died and may no longer be causing pain. BUT the exposed blood vessel and nerve will putrify and a tooth root abscess will develop, causing extreme pain.
Root Canal Therapy (RCT) is an alternative to extraction, and enables your pet to retain a functional tooth.
Large teeth, such as canines and the carnassial teeth in particular, require surgical extraction. They are similar to wisdom teeth in humans. This requires extensive, involved surgery and is more traumatic to your pet than RCT.
The most common and obvious sign is bad breath (halitosis). Open your pet's mouth - your pet's teeth should be whiter than yours are if they are in perfect health.
Brushing teeth is the most effective means of preventing dental disease in dogs. You should aim to do this 3 times a week. Use a soft bristled tooth brush with a small head and a pet-friendly tooth paste to brush your pet's teeth.
Note: Human toothpastes are not safe for pets.
There are a range of formulated foods for dogs and cats that have been shown to be effective in preventing the build-up of calculus, E.g. Hills T/D™ biscuits. Chews such as Dentastix™, Dentabone™ and Greenies™, are also effective.
Keeping your pet's teeth and gums healthy keep the bacteria count in their mouth to a minimum. If they develop large deposits of calculus on their teeth and severe periodontal (gum and bone) disease, your pet's immune system will have to fight off bacterial toxins and dangerous anaerobic bacteria. These organisms have been shown to cause heart, liver and kidney damage in severely affected dogs.
Good oral health helps ensure longevity - something we all want for our pets along with a good quality of life.
At AVDE OS, in addition to cats and dogs, we routinely attend to the dental needs of rabbits and guinea pigs as well as the occasional chinchilla or rat. These pets all need hard food to ensure proper dental wear, without it the teeth become overgrown leading to bone infections and pain.
This varies depending on the individual's pre-existing disease, the homecare provided and individual eating habits.
Most pets will require a routine prophy treatment (scale and polish), on average, every 1-3 years. It is best to have a veterinarian who is experienced in dental care examine your pet, and it is important to act on their advice.
Any benefit that might be conferred by feeding bones, and meat with bone, is going to be offset by this diet resulting in fractured teeth.
Wild animals consuming whole carcasses have similar problems. For example wild dogs at the zoo have multiple fractured teeth - luckily these dogs have the advantage of receiving good dental care.
Note: A relevant article entitled "Wild Dogs of Hamilton Zoo" can be found in the newsletter section of our website.
In my professional opinion, 'natural' diets do not provide any substantial long-term benefits for oral health.
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