DENTAL DISEASE and
Dental disease is one
of the most common conditions seen by veterinarians. Approximately two-thirds of
pets over three years of age have some degree of dental disease. The most common
problems are due to periodontal disease, gingivitis and in cats, cervical neck lesions
(also called oral resorptive lesions). Most pets will show few signs of dental
disease. It is up to the pet’s family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and
often painful condition.
What are the clinical signs of dental disease?
There are a number
of signs that should alert you to dental disease or other mouth problems in your
cat. Your pet may show a decreased interest in food or approach the food bowl and
then show a reluctance to eat. It may chew with obvious caution and discomfort,
drop food from the mouth, or may swallow with difficulty. Dribbling may be seen,
possibly with blood, and there may be a marked unpleasant odor to the breath. In
some cases your pet may be seen pawing at its mouths or shaking its heads. Dental
disease and oral pain may account for the “finicky appetites” that many cats and
dogs display. As the oral infection increases, tonsillitis and pharyngitis can also
occur. In addition, the bacteria are absorbed into the blood stream and can be carried
to other organs. Heart valve infections (endocardiosis or endocarditis),
kidney and liver problems are frequently caused by “bad teeth”. Dental disease also
makes Diabetes very hard to control.
What causes dental disease?
The most common cause
of dental disease in cats is due to tartar and calculus accumulation. As in humans,
cats accumulate bacterial plaque on the surface of their teeth. If the plaque is
not removed quickly, it becomes mineralized to form tartar and calculus. The bacterial
products and decaying food stuck to tartar are one potential cause of bad breath.
Tartar is easily identified by its yellow or brown color. It normally starts at
the gum edge, especially on the back teeth called the premolars and molars. In severe
cases, tartar and calculus may cover the entire tooth. The accumulation of tartar
and bacteria on the teeth surfaces lead to infection and gingivitis or inflammation
of the gums. If the disease is caught at an early stage and a thorough veterinary
dental scaling and polishing performed, most of the teeth and gums will have a full
recovery. However, if gingivitis is allowed to persist untreated, then irreversible
periodontal disease will occur. During this process the bone and ligaments
that support the tooth are destroyed leading to excessive tooth mobility and eventual
tooth loss. Infection around the socket causes the formation of pus and a foul odor
and may spread deep into the tooth socket creating an abscess, or even more severe
problems. Once periodontal disease starts, the degenerative changes to the tooth
and its support structures cannot be reversed. These changes also make it easier
for more plaque and tartar to collect, resulting in further disease.
always associated with dental disease?
Some cats develop severe
gingivitis with minimal signs of accompanying dental disease. The affected areas
may extend beyond the gums to other areas of the mouth, such as the throat or tongue.
There are various reasons why this may occur and your pet would need to have some
diagnostic tests performed to determine the cause.
What are cervical
Cervical neck lesions
result from a progressive destruction of the enamel resulting in slowly deepening
“holes” in affected teeth. Once the sensitive parts of the tooth are exposed, these
lesions are intensely painful, and the only proven available treatment is to extract
the tooth. The cause of this disease is unknown; however, poor oral health can play
a role in the disease-process.
What should I
do if my pet has signs of dental problems?
If you see that your
cat has evidence of tartar accumulation, gingivitis or is exhibiting any signs of
mouth pain or discomfort, you should take it to your veterinarian for an examination.
You will be advised of the most appropriate course of treatment, which may involve
having the cat’s teeth examined and cleaned under general anesthesia. The rate of
tartar accumulation is very variable between individual cats, and in some cases
this may necessitate professional cleaning on a regular basis such as every six
to twelve months. Do not try to remove tartar from the teeth yourself using any
form of metallic instrument. Aside from potentially harming your cat’s mouth or
the cat harming you, you are likely to damage the tooth surface by creating microscopic
scratches, which will provide areas for bacteria to cling to and encourage more
rapid plaque formation, thus making the problem worse.
What can I do
to help prevent dental disease in my cat?
We recommend starting
tooth brushing as early as possible in every pet. This can be done using a tooth
brush, finger brush or some gauze around your finger tip. Ideally this should be
done daily to all surfaces of teeth, but we realize this is not always possible.
If your pet gets too stressed during brushing, you can just brush a few teeth at
a time. Try dividing the mouth into sections and do one at a time as often as he/she
will let you.
Remember to use treats
(or “bribes”!) for positive reinforcement will make each attempt a little easier
for you and your pet. Make sure to use toothpaste made especially for pets. Human
toothpaste is made to be rinsed from the mouth, and is very irritating to dog and
cat tummies when swallowed.
We recommend “CET CHEWS”
for dogs and cats. These are a great addition to home dental care, but should not
be used more than a few times weekly. Remember some treats may contribute to weight
gain and/or vomit/diarrhea especially if used in excess. Monitor your pet closely
for any such changes or problems.
Providing your dog
with appropriate chew toys can also help reduce plaque accumulation. Avoid hard
nylon toys, cow hooves and bones, as these are hard enough to fracture teeth.
We strongly recommend
feeding a prescription diet to all healthy adult pets. We all feed our own pets
either Hills T/D or Medi-cal Dental Diet. On top of providing high quality balanced
nutrition, these foods are highly effective at removing plaque and tartar. If your
pet is having trouble giving up his/her regular diet, you can try mixing one of
the dental diets together with the regular diet or even using the kibbles as a daily
We stand behind our
diets 100%. If your pet does not like the food you
can return it to us
for a full refund. If you are considering a diet change please give us a call so
we can recommend a diet choice that is safe for your pet. Always remember that any
food changes should be done gradually over a 5-7 day period to avoid stomach upset.
***If at anytime
you wish to discuss dental care, or want to bring your pet in for a
home care demonstration
with one of our nurses, please call us***
CANINE AND FELINE
DENTISTRY AT OUR ANIMAL HOSPITALS
Dental health contributes
significantly to the overall health of our pets. The purpose of this handout is
to provide clients with an overview of the high quality dental care provided through
our Group of Hospitals.
Dental admit appointment
This includes a full
consultation with you. The nurse will answer any questions you may have and discuss
the estimate of costs. The doctor performs a complete physical exam and reviews
results of pre-anesthetic blood work to determine the safest anesthetic protocol
for your pet.
is requiredto perform a thorough dental
examination and treatment. An injectable agent, or premedication, is given prior
to anesthetic induction. Premedication provides sedation, protects against
the negative side effects of anesthetic agents and decreases pain and discomfort
in the postoperative period. Once the premedication has taken effect, and your pet
is placed on intra-venous fluids, an injectable anesthetic is given to achieve general
anesthesia. At this point, a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) places
an endotracheal tube to ensure safe and efficient delivery of oxygen and
anesthetic gases to your pet. General anesthesia is maintained with isoflurane,
one of the safest anesthetics currently available for veterinary use.
Dental forceps and
a mechanical scaler(the same instruments
used by your dentist) are used to remove calculus from the crowns of the teeth.
A handheld curette is used to gently remove
calculus and debris from
beneath the gum
periodontal disease begins.
All tooth surfaces
are polished, above and below the gum line, using a disposable flared rubber
cup and fluoride polishing paste. Polishing removes etching caused by scaling and
creates a smooth, glass-like surface to discourage plaque from adhering
A disinfecting oral
rinse is used to flush beneath the gum line to remove all remaining debris from
the oral cavity.
and Dental X-Rays
A Veterinarian conducts
a through examination of the teeth and oral cavity. Any irregularities of the
teeth and supporting structures are charted on the surgical record. At this time,
the veterinarian evaluates the oral x-rays to determine what extractions and/or
other treatment may be required.
One of our Registered
Technicians provides an overview of the dentistry and instructions for postoperative
care. A dental kit is available for interested clients.
We like to see the
patient back 14 days after the dentistry for a progress evaluation to ensure proper
healing and to discuss home dental care.