Everything You Need To Know About Dental Disease & Your Dog
Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions in pets. Over 80% of dogs over the age of three have active dental disease! Unlike us, dogs can’t brush their teeth twice daily, so you can only imagine the state of our teeth if we never brushed them!
Why is dental disease a problem for my dog?
Dental disease is more than just bad breath and yellow teeth, dental disease is a welfare issue as it causes pain to our pets and can lead to serious health implications when infections spread from the bacteria in our pet’s mouth.
Dogs are naturally good at adapting to and hiding pain, so often owners are unaware their dog is suffering at all, which is why dental checks by trained veterinarians are essential. If you’ve ever had a tooth ache you will know how painful it can be if left untreated!
How does dental disease grading work?
We grade dental disease from 0-4 in regards to the severity of the disease. The important thing to note is that dental disease is guaranteed to progress. So if your pet has grade 1 dental disease now, if it is not treated at the time it will get worse and develop into a higher grade.
The more severe grades of dental disease lead to irreversible damage where teeth rot and need to be surgically removed, which can greatly increase the price of your pet’s procedure not to mention the fact they will lose irreplaceable teeth!
Can’t I start brushing my dog’s teeth now and switch them to a dental diet instead of having a dental scale and polish?
Dental disease cannot be removed in any way other than a scale and polish procedure. Products like dental diets and mouth washes may help to slow the progression down, but it will not remove the existing dental disease, which will continue to worsen without intervention through a dental procedure.
We recommend having a scale and polish as soon as any dental disease is noted, and then keep up good home care such as dental diets and tooth brushing to slow the recurrence of the dental disease.
The treatment cost seems significant just to clean my dog’s teeth, what is included?
A dental procedure for our pets is quite complex, involving a full anaesthetic which requires skill and various technical equipment to ensure it is the safest possible procedure for your pet.
At Sugarland we are an accredited animal hospital of excellence so all our dental procedures have very high standards such as advance anaesthetic monitoring equipment, IV fluids, a dedicated anaesthetic monitoring nurse, injectable antibiotics, ultrasonic dental scaling equipment and more.
A routine dental cleaning involves your veterinarian thoroughly examining the mouth, noting the alignment of the teeth and the extent of tartar accumulation both above and below the gum line. Each tooth is probed and charted to determine its condition and health.
Each tooth will then be scaled (cleaned) using ultrasonic scaling equipment (just like at the human dentist) to remove all traces of tartar and bacteria, both above and below the gum line.
After scaling, the teeth are individually polished to remove microscopic scratches in order to help prevent future plaque build-up. Special applications such as fluoride, antibiotic preparations, and cleaning compounds are also used to decrease tooth sensitivity, strengthen enamel, treat bacterial infection, and reduce future build up.
My vet has recommended dental x-rays, are they really needed?
Over 70% of the tooth is actually under the gum line and not visible to the eye. This means a tooth may seem perfectly healthy on the outside, but could have a fractured root, abscess or be completely rotten within and we would not know without an x-ray.
Dental x-rays allow us to see the entire tooth including the roots and the jaw bones. This way we will know which teeth may be causing your pet pain and require removal, as well as if it is safe to do so depending on the health of the jaw bone and the tooth root.
What would be the point of performing a dental procedure if we leave rotten, painful teeth in your dog’s mouth because we cannot see the whole tooth?
Without x-rays, there is also an increased risk when removing teeth as we cannot see the health of the root or jaw bone, which may result in a fractured jaw or root remnants being left behind and becoming infected.
Why does my dog need teeth extracted and what does this involve?
We often can’t know what teeth need extracting until your pet is under anaesthetic and we can fully probe and chart the teeth, as well as perform dental x-rays to see the root and inside of each tooth.
If a tooth is deemed to need extraction it is because it is causing, or will soon cause, your pet to be in pain. Whether it’s a hole in the tooth exposing the sensitive pulp, a fracture exposing nerve or a rotten root that can lead to a nasty abscess, these teeth will do more harm than good if not removed.
It may seem extreme to remove your pet’s teeth, but the pain and health risks associated with leaving damaged or rotten teeth in your pet’s mouth is much worse. Pets are very adaptable and often recover from tooth extractions within a number of days and continue their normal lives. Some pets even become better eaters once the painful teeth are removed!
In regards to the actual tooth removal, our veterinarians are highly trained in this very complex process and use high tech equipment such as dental drills to carefully remove the effected teeth. This is also where dental x-rays come into play as it helps guide the vet and ensure a safe extraction. This process can often take hours if multiple teeth need removing, as they need to navigate around nerves and often suture extraction sites closed.
Will my dog’s dental disease come back after the dental procedure?
Unfortunately yes, dental disease is progressive and once we remove the current build-up through a dental scale and polish procedure, it will start coming back again.
But there are things we can do to slow this down after the scale and polish is completed, including teeth brushing, dental diets and products like Hexarinse. Just ask our team today and they can help put a plan in place to reduce the recurrence.
Some dogs are also more prone to dental disease, including smaller dogs and certain breeds.
With regular dental checks and scale and polish procedures, we can catch dental disease in the earlier stages which means a less complex and less expensive procedure, rather than leaving it to develop into the later stages where gum health is effected, infection begins and teeth need to be removed.