Kiko was a charming eight-year-old Whippet who had been brought to the clinic because his family had noticed that he had bad breath and was drooling a lot.
At her clinical exam, I noticed on her dental exam that she had a lot of plaque buildup on her upper molars and had red, swollen gums on top of these teeth that bled easily when touched. Kiko had dental disease and I advised her to be reserved for dental treatment under controlled anesthesia safely.
Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions that veterinarians encounter in practice. It is concerning that more than 80 percent of dogs over the age of three already have some degree of active dental disease.
Few dogs show obvious outward signs of dental disease, so it’s important to be aware of this hidden and often painful condition.
In humans the most common dental disease in people is dental caries and cavities, in dogs it is periodontal disease and fractured teeth.
Periodontal disease is a term used to describe the infection and associated inflammation of the tissues surrounding the tooth, the periodontium. There are four tissues that make up the periodontium. These are the gums, the cementum (which covers the surface of the root), the periodontal ligament (the ligament that attaches the root of the tooth to the bone), and the alveolar bone. Periodontal diseases begin with gingivitis, and if left untreated, the infection often spreads deeper into the tooth socket, eventually destroying the alveolar bone and surrounding tissues. The affected tooth loosens and tooth loss occurs. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of dogs over the age of three suffer from some degree of periodontal disease, making it the most common disease affecting domestic dogs.
A dog’s mouth is home to thousands of bacteria. As these bacteria will multiply on the tooth surface where they organize themselves into a biofilm and form an invisible layer called “plaque”. Some of this plaque can be removed naturally with the dog’s tongue and normal chewing habits. A progressive buildup of this plaque biofilm becomes hard and extremely resistant to removal. If this film is allowed to remain on the tooth surface, this plaque thickens and mineralizes, resulting in tartar. Tartar is a hard, rough material that attracts even more plaque to adhere to the tooth surface. Bacteria on the surface of plaque that meet the gums can cause an inflammation of the gums called “gingivitis.” Gingivitis is now the first stage of periodontal disease, and this is the only truly reversible stage of dental disease.
The rate at which plaque mineralizes and builds up into tartar can be much faster in some dog breeds than others. Preventive treatment is always better. As we would do, the best way to prevent tartar buildup is through regular daily brushing with a toothpaste formulated specifically for dogs and designed to be safe if ingested. Unfortunately, while it’s the best way to control plaque, most dog owners fail to brush their dogs’ teeth every day.
Special dog chew toys and treats can also reduce or delay plaque and tartar buildup, and some pet foods have been specifically formulated as dental diets that mechanically or chemically claim to help remove plaque. Water additives are now also available. Your veterinary and veterinary support team can help you decide which options are right for your dog.
However, once hard tartar has formed on your pets’ teeth, professional scaling and polishing under general anesthesia will be necessary, as this tartar cannot be easily removed by dieting or brushing.
A routine professional dental cleaning involves a complete dental exam under carefully supervised anesthesia, followed by dental scaling and polishing to remove plaque and tartar from all tooth surfaces. Preanesthetic blood tests are often recommended to ensure kidney and liver function are satisfactory for anesthesia, and fluid therapy is recommended before and during the dental procedure. Sometimes a course of antibiotics is started before dental work is done. Your veterinarian will discuss specific and ideal recommendations for your pet.
Once your pet is anesthetized, your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your pet’s mouth safely, noting the alignment of the teeth and the degree of tartar buildup both above and below the gum line. Dental radiographs, x-rays, should also be performed to assess the viability of the tooth root and surrounding bone in a comprehensive evaluation of the whole mouth dentition. If periodontal disease is severe, it may not be possible to save all of the affected teeth. Extraction of a seriously diseased tooth may be the only option. The teeth will then be scaled and polished using ultrasonic equipment, to remove all traces of tartar, both above and below the gum line of the remaining teeth, and to remove microscopic scratches that occur during scaling. scraped off. A smooth surface on the remaining tooth is essential to prevent plaque from easily re-adhering to tooth enamel.
Tooth fractures are also common in dogs. Most tooth fractures occur when dogs chew on objects that are too hard for safe chewing action, such as stones, sticks, bones, hard nylon chews, horse and pig hooves and antlers. Any dental chew, toy or dental treat given to a dog should “give” and have some flexibility when compressed. The center of the tooth, called the pulp, is covered by hard dentin and even harder enamel. There are two types of dental fractures that involve the crown of the tooth. Uncomplicated fractures can expose sensitive dentin. Complicated crown fractures involve not only the dentin, but extend deeper to expose the pulp of the tooth, which contains the nerves and blood vessels. If the dental pulp is exposed, the only treatment options are extraction of the fractured tooth or referral for root canal treatment at a specialized veterinary dental office, as the infection will enter directly through the fracture site and is likely for a more serious infection to occur. happen in time.
Kiko underwent a thorough dental scaling and polishing and fortunately no teeth needed to be extracted. Her breath was lovely after her procedure, and she seemed much brighter and happier with herself as well.
To give your pet a healthy mouth, brush his teeth every day. It is recommended to practice daily tooth brushing with your dog from a very early stage in puppyhood. With finesse, patience, and perseverance, you can provide the daily oral care your dog needs to prevent dental disease. Seek help, advice and guidance from your veterinarian and the veterinary nursing team at your veterinary practice for regular tooth brushing and ongoing good dental care and hygiene for your dog. This daily routine will reap long-term benefits!