Maintaining Good Dental Health

Whenever you schedule your next dental appointment for a cleaning, schedule your pet’s dental exam, too. As with humans, dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health because dental problems can be a sign of other health problems, or cause them.

What is veterinary dentistry?

Veterinary dentistry covers the full range of a pet’s dental health needs, such as cleaning, repair, filing, adjustment, and extraction of your pet’s teeth, among other oral health needs.

Typically, your office visit begins with a veterinarian conducting an oral exam of your pet’s mouth. Sometimes x-rays may be needed to enable the veterinarian to “see“ the jaw and the tooth roots below the gum line because most dental disease occurs below the gum line. A thorough dental cleaning and evaluation requires anesthesia for your pet’s comfort. Dental cleaning is similar to the process used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleanings and includes scaling to remove plaque and tartar, as well as polishing.

Who should do it?
Veterinary dental procedures usually can and should be performed by your veterinarian. Depending on state regulations, veterinary technicians may be permitted to perform certain dental procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian.

When should teeth be checked?

Have your pet’s teeth checked at least annually by your veterinarian to maintain good dental health and to spot any early signs of a problem.

You should take your pet in a for a dental exam sooner if you observe any of the following problems:

• refusal to eat or poor appetite
• obvious pain or swelling in the mouth or jaw area
• bad breath
• teeth that are broken or loose
• unusual chewing, dropping food or drooling
• teeth covered in tartar or that are discolored, or
• bleeding from the mouth.

If your pet becomes irritable, this could signal dental problems. So, any changes in your pet’s behavior that are not otherwise explainable should be explored in a visit with your veterinarian. Animals in pain can feel threatened and want to protect a painful or vulnerable area, so be especially careful if you look into your pet’s mouth.

What are the most common dental problems?

Pets have many of the same dental problems that people do, though cavities are less common in pets than in people. Some common problems include:

• infections or abscesses
• periodontal disease
• broken teeth
• mouth cysts or tumors
• misalignment of the teeth and bite
• palate defects, or
• fractured jaw.

How can I support my pet’s dental health?
The most important and effective thing you can do to keep your pet’s teeth healthy between dental cleanings is regular brushing. That helps reduce the frequency for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Brush your pet’s teeth daily, if possible, or at least several times a week. Most dogs usually tolerate brushing well, but cats may require more patience and training.

Many pet products claim to improve dental health, but their effectiveness varies. Consult your veterinarian about recommending the most safe and effective dental products, healthy treats, or dental-supportive diets you’re considering for your pet.