What kinds of dental problems do pets have?
Dental disease is a common and often overlooked problem in animals. Dental disease is as common in pets as it is in humans. The most common form of dental disease in pets is tartar buildup. This causes irritation of the gums around the base of the teeth (gingivitis), resulting in exposure of the roots. Ultimately, this leads to infection and tooth loss.
Isn't it correct that pets that eat dry food don't have tartar buildup?
There are many misconceptions about tartar buildup in pets. Diet plays more of a minor role in the development of tartar accumulation than most people think. Because dry food is not as sticky as canned food, it does not adhere to the teeth as much and thus, does not cause tartar buildup as rapidly. However, eating dry food does not remove tartar from the teeth. Once tartar forms, a professional cleaning is necessary. We recommend Science Diet t/d for long-term dental health, particularly after a dental is performed.

One of the main factors determining the amount of tartar buildup is the individual chemistry in the mouth. Some pets need yearly cleanings; other pets need a cleaning only once every few years.
What does tartar do to the teeth?
If tartar is allowed to remain on the teeth, several things may happen:
  1. The tartar will mechanically push the gums away from the roots of the teeth. This allows the teeth to loosen in their sockets and infection to enter the root socket. The teeth will loosen and fall out or have to be extracted.
  2. Infection will accumulate in the mouth, resulting in gingivitis, tonsillitis, and pharyngitis (sore throat). Although antibiotics may temporarily suppress the infection, if the tartar is not removed from the teeth, infection will return quickly.
  3. Infection within the mouth will be picked up by the blood stream and carried to other parts of the body. Kidney infections, as well as infections involving the heart valves, frequently begin in the mouth.
What is involved in cleaning my pet's teeth?
Proper cleaning of the teeth requires complete cooperation of the patient so plaque and tartar can be removed properly. Anesthesia is required to thoroughly clean the teeth. Although anesthesia always carries a degree of risk, the modern anesthetics in use in our hospital minimize this risk, even for older pets. Depending on your pet’s age and general health status, blood may be analyzed prior to anesthesia to evaluate blood cell counts and organ functions. There are three steps in the cleaning process that will be used on your pet:
  1.  Scaling removes the tartar above and below the gum line. This is done with hand instruments and ultrasonic cleaning equipment.
  2. Polishing smoothes the surface of the teeth, making them resistant to additional plaque formation.
  3. Flushing removes dislodged tartar from the teeth and helps to remove the bacteria that accompany tartar.
What type of scheduling is needed for teeth cleaning?
In order for us to clean your pet’s teeth, we ask that you schedule the procedure a few days in advance. It will be necessary to withhold food after 8:00 PM the night before; please do not remove the water. Your pet should be admitted to the hospital between 7:30 and 8:00 AM and will generally be ready for discharge in the late afternoon. Your pet will need to stay indoors that evening to insure that no accidents (falls, etc.) occur until they are completely recovered from anesthesia. If that is not possible, you may elect to have your pet spend the night in the hospital.
How can I prevent this from recurring?
Several preventive measures can be recommended to aid in oral hygiene for your pet. Seek regular veterinary care annually and have your pets teeth cleaned when advised. It also helps to maintain home dental care including brushing the teeth. Special toothbrushes and flavored toothpastes are available. We will be happy to show you how to do this and to recommend a schedule.

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