Dental Disease

Studies show that 70-80% of all cats and dogs that are more than two years old are affected by dental disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis. This means that more than half of the patients seen at James Street Veterinary Hospital are victims of these preventable conditions.

Periodontal disease is progressive and affects the teeth, gums and the bone which supports them. It is caused by a build-up of plaque and tartar on the tooth surface. Without adequate preventative care and treatment, periodontal disease can result in discomfort, pain, bad breath, irreversible damage to gums, premature loss of teeth, and infections that can affect other organs in the body such as the heart, liver and kidneys.

Check your pet’s teeth and gums?

The first sign of dental disease may be bad smelling breath (halitosis). This is caused by bacteria and infection in your pet’s mouth. Other signs may be red, painful gums, build-up of tartar on teeth, discoloured, worn or broken teeth and even pus in the mouth. Unfortunately, many pets will show no outward signs of suffering although they feel the pain of dental disease just like we do. However animals cannot complain verbally and in nature showing signs of pain or disease may lead to loss of status in the pack so they suffer in silence. Most animals with dental disease will continue to eat normally!

Dental problems and overall health

Untreated dental problems can develop into serious, and even life-threatening diseases in our pets that require expensive long-term medication. Gum disease and rotten teeth can result in infections that spread to the blood stream and vital organs like the kidney, liver and heart, causing disease in later life in aging pets.

We Recommend a Preventative Approach

Train young puppies and kittens to allow examination of their teeth and gums. Get used to the appearance of a healthy mouth so that you can recognise when there is problem. Just as in people, tooth brushing the best way to keep your pets’ teeth healthy. There are many dental diets and chews that will also help to remove plaque and tartar before they build up and cause gingivitis and periodontal disease. Some pets will also benefit from mouth washes, gels and water additives if they do not accept any of the above methods. Most pets will also need annual professional hygiene treatments (scale and polish) under general anaesthesia and this need increases as the pet ages. Early prevention is the best way to save teeth.

See VOHC (veterinary oral health council) website http://www.vohc.org/ for information on products which have been tested and approved for prevention and control of plaque and tartar in dogs and cats.

The Dental Check Process

During the dental check, we will review your pet’s teeth and gums, and discuss any treatment that may be required. Some problems are easy to see by looking in the mouth but many pets resent having their mouth opened and examined closely so often a quick glance is all that is possible in the conscious animal. If there are signs that there may be dental disease we may recommend a general anaesthetic and a complete assessment and treatment will be carried out while the pet is asleep. Of course, if your pet’s teeth are healthy we will let you know what to look out for in the future and give you some tips and advice for keeping their teeth clean and healthy!

Dental Grading

  • Grade 0: Clinically normal, no gingival inflammation or periodontitis clinically evident.
  • Grade 1: inflammation of the gingival tissues; advances as the tissues become more inflamed and there may be bleeding with probing; gingivitis is limited to the gingival tissues, there is no attachment loss, no tooth mobility; gingivitis is reversible.
  • Grade 2: pocket formation and/or gingival recession are occurring; results in attachment loss of up to 25%.
  • Grade 3: 25-50% attachment loss around a tooth; slight tooth mobility may be present; pocketing, gingival recession and early furcation exposure may be present.
  • Grade 4: marked (over 50%) attachment loss; may appear as furcation exposure, deep pockets, mobility, and/or gingival recession.

Dental Procedures

Pets have teeth just like people. They need regular care to maintain health teeth and gums. A yearly professional scale and polish is extremely important to protect the gums and teeth from disease and teeth being lost. Like going to the dentist our hospital has a professional dental unit which, scales polishes and if need be specially designed high speed to drill to make teeth removal easier and less painful.

Steps that are involved in dental procedures include:

  1. General physical examination
  2. Preoperative bloodwork
  3. Preoperative antibiotics if indicated
  4. Preemptive pain management
  5. General anesthesia
  6. Intravenous fluids
  7. Oral rinse with chlorhexidine
  8. Supragingival scaling – remove plaque and tartar on the crown surface of the teeth
  9. Subgingival scaling – remove plaque and tartar under the gum surfaces of the teeth
  10. Detection of remaining plaque and tartar
  11. Polishing
  12. Irrigation
  13. Fluoride application
  14. Probe and explore
  15. Complete charting
  16. Dental radiographs
  17. Treatment plan
  18. Anesthetic recovery
  19. Home care
  20. Post procedure check ups