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Imagine this….You not brushing your teeth 2-3 times a day, possibly not even once a week and never ever flossing? That’s a scary thought for a person to ‘chew’ on. Don’t you think?

What you didn't know about your companion's dental/oral health is that periodontal disease is the most common disease seen by veterinarians. It is estimated that anywhere between 70% to 85% of pets over 2 years of age have some form of periodontal disease. Often dental health is overlooked or disregarded by owners as a medical condition that threatens their pet’s comfort level and overall health. It is not until a pet stops eating, starts to vocalize pain, develops facial swelling or an abscess that veterinary attention is sought and the true nature of the problem is diagnosed as an underlying periodontal disease. Upon confirming the diagnosis of periodontal disease in your pet, your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning with or without extractions, antibiotics, pain medication, routine oral care or a specialized treatment based on your pet’s unique dental health needs. 

Common signs of periodontal disease in pets are similar to those you would expect to see in a human. These can include:

*  Bad breath or foul odor around your pet’s mouth
*  Discolored enamel - yellow, brown or even black teeth
*  Teeth that are loose, broken or even missing
*  Gingivitis - red, irritated or swollen gums
*  Areas of swelling in or around your pet’s mouth, snout, jaw or eyes
*  Reluctant to play with chew toys or your pet may even stop playing with them 
*  Your pet may demonstrate pain or yelping and/or vocalize when eating
*  A decrease in your pet's appetite or he/she may completely stop eating 
*  Your pet may drool more than usual or have excessive drooling 
*  Your pet may smack or lick more than normal
*  In severe or advanced stages your pet may refuse to open his/her mouth


It is important to have your pet checked for dental disease, as gingivitis and periodontal disease can have major impacts on your pet’s internal organs such as their heart, liver, and kidneys. Bacteria colonize on the surface of the tooth as well as the plaque and tartar around the teeth and gums. This bacteria causes infection which can spread to the gums, tooth root, nerve and eventually into the bone causing pain, deep abscesses, and osteomyelitis or infection in the bone. From there the infection can easily be spread into your pet’s bloodstream and respiratory tract. Keep in mind your pet is exposed to this open line of infection simply by breathing or inhaling the bacteria in their mouth and by swallowing it with their saliva. Remember you may think that sounds really gross or disgusting but how do you think your companion feels?

What is involved in a dental cleaning procedure? How long will my pet have to stay in the hospital? 

Typically speaking most routine dentals are performed as an outpatient or same day procedure. You will drop your pet off early in the morning on the day of their scheduled dental procedure and you can expect to pick them up that evening between 4 pm and 5 pm. General anesthesia is required during a dental cleaning to protect your pet from aspiration and to maintain proper anesthetic depth during the procedure. An endotracheal tube is placed in your pet’s trachea allowing an anesthetic gas and oxygen to be regulated during the procedure. This also serves to restrict water and debris from traveling down the trachea and into your pet’s lungs. In addition, all pets receive an antibiotic and pain injection prior to their dental cleaning procedure. Your pet will most likely be discharged with an oral antibiotic and possibly a pain medication depending upon the severity of their gingivitis and if any extractions were performed. Bacteria are being disbursed as the tartar on the teeth is removed and their gums often bleed as the infection is cleaned. Our veterinarian performs dental nerve blocks on all patients when extractions are necessary and small dissolvable sutures are used just as if you were having surgery performed by your oral surgeon. In most cases, your pet can return to eating dry, hard kibble immediately following their dental procedure, yet some pets may benefit from eating soft or canned food for 2 or 3 days afterward while their gums heal. 

How often should I expect my pet to need a dental cleaning?

Some pets only need a dental cleaning every couple of years; whereas smaller / toy breeds or those pets with other underlying diseases may require dental cleanings every 6 to 12 months. It can better be explained by using the canine dental formula as an example:  2 (I3/I3, C1/C1, P4/P4, M2, M3). No matter the size of your canine companion they all have 42 teeth as an adult. In other words, that is the same amount of chewing equipment in a smaller / toy breed as a large breed; yet it is compacted into a smaller sometimes tiny, crowded area. These small, tight areas are exposed to less oxygen and decrease the contact surface area of each tooth during the normal chewing process. In return, this makes it an ideal growing place for anaerobic bacteria which is a leading cause of periodontal disease. We recommend to have your pet’s teeth cleaned on an yearly basis as part of their preventative care routine as most pets over the age of 2 have some form of periodontal disease. Annual wellness visits consisting of an oral examination will help us better gauge your pet’s individual dental health and upkeep needs. 

What can I do at home between dental cleanings for my pet?

We recommend brushing your pet’s teeth, feeding a balanced hard kibble as well as using dental chews and additives at home. This will help the overall oral hygiene in your pet; therefore increasing the amount of time between necessary dental cleanings. We also recommend feeding your pet one of the prescription dental diets or using it as a treat in addition to your pet’s normal diet. These prescription diets are designed to ‘chip’ tartar off the tooth as your pet bites down on the kibble, strengthen the periodontal ligaments and they have added components which promote healthy gums and teeth in your pet. What better way to facilitate a group effort in your pet’s oral health than by allowing them to ‘brush their own teeth’ while enjoying a healthy snack.

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