Oral health is a very important aspect of your pet's overall condition. Few owners realise that oral disease can give clues to underlying systemic diseases as well as be the cause of other systemic illnesses. Your pet's teeth are checked as part of his/her clinical exam at annual vaccinations and health checks. The vets and vet nurses will be able to give you specific advice for caring for your pets' teeth.
As with humans, certain dental problems are more likely to occur at particular life-stages, for example: Puppies and kittens may have retained deciduous ('baby') teeth, adult animals may fracture their teeth and seniors may have gum and periodontal disease. Furthermore, certain breeds may be more predisposed to particular dental problems than others.
Dental cleaning treatments are done under general anaesthetic. We use the same procedures and safety measures as for all other general anaesthetics. An ultrasonic dental scaler (much like those used by human dentists) is used for cleaning tartar and plaque off the crowns of the teeth as well as below the gumline to ensure the teeth are thoroughly clean. The teeth are then polished with polishing paste and a special polisher (the same as those used by human dentists) to ensure the surfaces of the teeth are smooth, thereby reducing the numbers of bacteria and food particles attaching to those surfaces.
Before (left) and after (right) a scale and polish treatment of a dog's teeth
If teeth are fractured, have tooth root abscesses or are too loose in their sockets, they may need to be extracted. These procedures are also done under general aneasthetic with a local anaesthetic when necessary, to reduce post-operative pain. If a tooth is to be removed we use a dental drill and other special equipment to remove it (see right for a picture of our dental machine). If other treatments are available and you decide that you would like specialist treatment options such as root canal treatments, crowns or fillings, we can provide you with a referral.
Maintaining good oral health is not always as difficult as it may seem at first. Discuss your pet's oral care and the challenges you may face with one of the vets or nurses to work out a programme for giving your pet the best chance at a healthy mouth.
Toothbrush and toothpaste suitable for use in dogs and cats (left).