Dental Care

My pet has bad breath. Is this normal? In general, if your pet has bad breath it is a good sign that your pet may have gingivitis. Gingivitis is simply an irritation of the gums caused by the build up of plaque near the gum line. Not only does this cause bad breath in your pet, but it can also lead to more serious problems. Gingivitis is caused when bacteria adheres to the tooth surface forming plaque. Over time, without regular dental care, plaque changes into tartar – also known as calculus. This bonds firmly to the teeth and can only be removed by a veterinarian using professional scaling tools. If your pet has bad breath, it may be because the calculus on the teeth has trapped bacteria which releases sulfur compounds causing bad breath. It is very important to make an appointment for your pet to have a dental evaluation.

What is the difference between plaque and tartar? Plaque is a combination of bacteria, saliva, blood cells, and other bacterial components. Plaque can cause irritation to the gums – or gingiva – which can cause swelling, bleeding and irritation making it painful for your pet to eat or chew. Tartar, or calculus, is plaque that has hardened and firmly adhered to your pet’s teeth. Once plaque has transformed into tartar it can only be removed by your veterinarian. Plaque also creates an uneven surface upon which bacteria can adhere leading to an increased risk of dental disease.

What if I don’t get my pet’s teeth cleaned? Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed problem in pets. As increased bacteria builds up in your pet’s mouth, it can eventually lead to diseases of the mouth. The gums become irritated and begin to bleed. Eating can become painful for your pet resulting in weight loss. If your pet’s dental health continues to deteriorate, the gums separate from the teeth forming pockets which collect bacteria and tartar. This leads to eventual bone and tooth loss. Infections below the tooth can lead to abscesses in the gums which are very painful for your pet. Eventually, bacteria can enter your pet’s bloodstream carrying disease to other organs in your pet’s body including lungs,liver, kidneys, and heart.

When should I schedule my pet for his or her first dental exam? At Greenbrook Companion Animal Hospital, we take your pet’s dental health very seriously. Beginning with your pet’s first visit to our clinic, Dr. McCain will examine his or her teeth for signs of plaque and tartar. Because most pets begin showing signs of dental illness before they are three years old, we recommend regular cleanings before that age. Because each pet is different, scheduling regular checkups will ensure that your pet gets the dental care that he or she needs, when he or she needs it.

Dr. McCain recommend that my pet come in for a dental. What should I expect? If your pet is already exhibiting symptoms of periodontal disease, Dr. McCain may prescribe antibiotics for several days before your pet comes in for his or her dental cleaning. Pets need to be anesthetized for a dental cleaning. Unlike you, your pet will not sit quietly with his or her mouth open wide while his or her teeth are scaled and polished. Prior to anesthetizing your pet, Dr. McCain recommends a pre-anesthesia blood panel. This will ensure that your pet is healthy enough to be anesthetized and minimize the possibilities of complications while under anesthesia. Once your pet has been anesthetized, Dr. McCain begins by scaling your pet’s teeth with an ultrasonic dental scaler very similar to those used by your dentist. This removes the build up of tartar and bacteria on your pet’s teeth and below the gum line. After your pet’s teeth have been cleaned, they are polished. This is very important as it smoothes the surface of the tooth reducing the ability for bacteria to adhere to the teeth. If the teeth are not polished, scaling can leave microscopic scratches on your pet’s teeth, actually increasing the collection of plaque. After your pet’s teeth have been cleaned and polished, the depth of space between your pet’s tooth and gum will be measured. This is done using a dental probe and is checked at four points on each individual tooth. This will help to diagnose early stage gum disease or pockets between the tooth and gums. If necessary, Dr. McCain will inject antibiotics in these pockets to prevent further deterioration and aid in healing. Finally, a fluoride treatment will be applied to your pet’s teeth to ensure that they stay healthy and strong.

Will it hurt my pet to have his or her teeth cleaned? Just like you, your pet may experience some pain after a cleaning, especially if he or she has been diagnosed with periodontal disease. To minimize pain experienced by your pet, post-dental pain management will be included in any quotes for dental care. Because the comfort of your pet is as important as his or her health, pain management is not optional.