Clean Teeth Important to Pet's Health

By Vmd, Lawrence Gerson | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 7, 2012 | Go to article overview

Clean Teeth Important to Pet's Health


Vmd, Lawrence Gerson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Sweetie is the perfect name for one of my patients. He is owned by a retired but active client who volunteers at a hospital. The dog is an intelligent, healthy and well-behaved miniature poodle. He was adopted when he was 2 years old and has been a wonderful addition to the home. He has everything an owner would want but has one major medical issue.

Sweetie has tartar and moderate dental disease. Typical of all dogs and especially common in smaller dogs, tartar is not just a cosmetic problem. Plaque and tartar accumulate on pet's teeth, leading to inflammation of the gum line and followed by severe dental disease. His gum disease, called gingivitis, can lead to bone loss around the teeth, sometimes requiring extraction.

Dr. John Showalter, who provides dental consultations and advanced procedures locally at veterinary offices, said that by three years of age, 85 percent of dogs and cats have some form of dental disease.

Examination of the mouth, teeth and gums is an essential part of every physical exam. Unless an aggressive pet refuses to let a veterinarian examine the mouth, we look for evidence of dental disease at every comprehensive exam.

A small amount of tartar can be removed in the office with an instrument called a scalar. However, a proper cleaning and polishing must be done with anesthesia. To make the procedure as safe as possible, we suggest pre-operative blood testing and intravenous fluids. Some pets need a comprehensive work-up including chest radiographs and an EKG. Because dental disease increases with age, we are often anesthetizing pets 10 years or older.

Modern anesthesia drugs and careful monitoring make the dental procedure very safe. An owner can do a quick check at home by looking at the teeth and getting a good whiff of their pet's breath. The complete exam with anesthesia and often with radiographs of the mouth will indicate the need for extraction of bad teeth or other therapy. At the time of cleaning and polishing, we check each tooth for abnormalities and record significant findings.

Failure to attend to a foul mouth can result in serious additional problems. …

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