Dental

Just like humans, our pets are vulnerable to gum disease and problems with their teeth. Alarmingly, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffer from some form of dental disease by the age of three.

When there is a build up of bacteria, food particles and saliva on the teeth then plaque is formed. Plaque sticks to the tooth surface above and below the gum line and if not removed will calcify into tartar (also known as calculus). This appears as a yellow-brown material on the teeth. The gums react and become tender, inflamed and red (gingivitis), and progress to periodontal (gum) disease with the gums receding and the tooth roots becoming exposed and rotten.  Over time the bacterial infection in tartar causes irreversible changes to occur.

These include the destruction of supportive tissues and bone, resulting in red gums, bad breath and loosening of teeth. This same bacterial infection can cause secondary blood poisoning (affecting the kidney, liver and heart) and can make your pet seriously ill. Ultimately, dental disease results in many pets unnecessarily suffering tooth loss, gum infection and pain. It also has the potential to shorten your pet’s lifespan.

What if my pet has dental disease?

Firstly, you should have your pet's teeth examined by one of our veterinarians on a regular basis and if necessary, follow up with a professional dental clean. Your pet needs to be anaesthetised to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all teeth without distressing them. Once anaesthetised, a complete dental examination is carried out. This process involves charting all present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and any pockets in the gums around the teeth.

Our veterinarians will then remove the tartar above the gumline using a special ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for our teeth. The teeth are then polished using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste. If the dental disease is not severe, the procedure will end here. However, if certain teeth are so severely affected they cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary. In some cases, gum surgery is required to close the holes left behind when a tooth is extracted, and dissolvable stitches are used for this procedure.

Once all dental work is completed, your pet may be given an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection, the anaesthetic gas is turned off, and your pet is allowed to wake up. Pets are generally able to go home on the same day.
 
Following a professional dental clean, a plan needs to be implemented to minimise build up of tartar again, and will depend on the severity of your pet’s dental disease.  This may involve regular tooth brushing, feeding raw meaty bones and/or a special diet. It is recommended that all pets be examined 6 months after dental cleaning to determine the effectiveness of your dental care routine.

Can you do anaesthesia-free dentistry?

We do not recommend doing anaesthesia-free dentistry for the simple reason that through cleaning can not be properly done.  Tartar and plaque often builds up below the gum line (where it is not visible), and simply removing the tartar that is visible above the gum line means that only a cosmetic result is achieved giving the illusion of white, healthy teeth.  In reality, without cleaning properly below the gum line, ongoing damage occurs.  It is not hard to imagine after 3-4 years of anaesthesia-free dentistry, that a pet may have clean looking teeth, but still have a tooth root abscess brewing in the jawbone beneath the gumline!  The part of the dental scale and polish we always hate is when our dentist cleans under the gumline - and your pet is no different!

An anaesthetic allows us to do the job properly and safely.  If you have concerns about anaesthesia, feel free to speak to one of our friend

How can I minimise ongoing dental disease?

Long-term control and prevention of dental disease requires regular home care. The best way to begin this is to acclimatise your pet from a young age. Dental home care may include:

  • Brushing teeth daily – just like us! This is the best form of dental hygiene.  Pet toothbrushes and toothpaste are now available (with beef, cheese and chicken flavours for example!). Please do not use human toothpaste formulas as they are not designed to be swallowed and may be toxic to your pet.

  • Feed pets raw meaty bones or special dental diets. This can help reduce the accumulation of tartar.

  • Use dental toys, enzymatic chews, or teeth cleaning biscuits, all of which may help keep the teeth clean.

Regular and frequent attention to your pet's teeth may avoid the need for a professional dental clean under anaesthetic, and will also improve your pet's overall health.