Pet Dentistry: Dogs and Cats Need Dental Care, Too
Pet dentistry has become an established aspect of good veterinary care. And for good reason! One of the best things a pet owner can do to insure the overall health of their pet is to do routine checking of the teeth, gums and oral cavity. Look at the two photos below…one shows a healthy state of oral hygiene, and the other…well, you can see for yourself that this dog has some major problems.
A healthy mouth with normal bacterial flora and sound gums and minimal plaque buildup.
An unhealthy oral cavity with all sorts of unfavorable bacteria, gum and inner lip ulcerations, receding gums, root exposure and plaque buildup.
The dog whose photo is on the right (2nd one above) runs the risk of toxin absorption into the blood stream. Bacteria, too, can invade the body through the blood stream by gaining entrance into the oral lesions… this is called Bacteremia. If the bacteria get a chance to settle and reproduce in the lining of the heart or heart valves, a serious condition may result called Bacterial Endocarditis. Kidney damage and joint problems are a common sequele to bacterial invasion via the unhealthy oral cavity.[Visit a Specialist in Veterinary Dentistry] [ All About Oral Health Care] [See Advanced Dental Care Procedures]
What Veterinarians Can Do
We will use as an example this feline dentistry case. This seven year old cat was presented for annual vaccinations and during the physical exam the veterinarian notice the plaque on the teeth and inflamed gums at the margins of the teeth and gums. (The medical term for “gums” is “gingiva”.) So, this cat had gingivitis and plaque that if left to its own evolution would get worse over time. The cat would eventually develop cavities in the teeth, gingival recession, bacterial contamination, loose teeth and root exposure. It probably would hurt, too!
This cat was admitted in the morning after an overnight fast from food and water. Routine blood tests were normal and the cat was judged to be a good candidate for anesthesia and dentistry. Using a very simple and unrestrictive method of anesthesia induction, Dr. Mike Rosek and his assistant Kelly of Stevens Point Animal Hospital in Wisconsin, placed the cat into the induction chamber. A mixture of anesthetic gas and oxygen flows into the chamber (and safely vented to the outdoors) and in a few moments the cat will be relaxed enough to allow the endotracheal tube to be inserted into the trachea. Throughout the procedure the anesthetic gas flowing through the endotracheal tube is regulated so that work can be done painlessly and still have the patient at a safe level of anesthesia.
Some veterinarians are members of the American Veterinary Dental Association and have advanced skills and capabilities. Often, an animal will need a root canal procedure performed or require a tooth to be capped. While many pet owners do not expect their pet to have these services performed, they can and should be done in certain circumstances. Gingival plastic surgery can be done, as well. Sometimes the best thing to do is to remove a severely damaged or markedly loose tooth. Once the gum heals, the pet seldom shows any signs of missing the offending tooth or teeth.
Here is what the cat’s mouth looked like prior to the dentistry. Note the endotracheal tube, inflamed gingival margins and plaque deposits on the teeth.
An ultrasonic instrument is used to separate the plaque from the teeth. It sprays cooling water at the time it works it’s cleaning magic on the teeth. After the teeth are “scaled” a light buffing is done to polish the teeth.
As the cat awakens, the endotracheal tube is removed and antibiotics are prepared for administration at home for 7 to 10 days. Initially an antibiotic injection is given as soon as the cat is anesthetized. There will be a disruption of the gum tissue and all sorts of bacteria thrown about during the cleaning.
This cat will go home in the afternoon and instructions are given to the owner as to beneficial oral care for the cat. Hopefully it won’t need further dentistry; but there are some patients who need ultrasonic cleaning almost every year.
Be sure to take a good look in your dog or cat’s mouth and inspect it for any foul looking or smelling characteristics. If you are suspicious that something isn’t right, make an appointment with your veterinarian for a dental checkup. Both you and your pet will feel better when oral hygiene is an important part of your pet health care routine. There is no excuse for allowing a pet’s oral health status to deteriorate to conditions like the dog on the left. It’s up to you to keep a look-out for teeth and gum problems.
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“The Internet Animal Hospital”