Pet dentistry

Dentistry

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

Dental disease typically begins with a build-up of plaque, consisting of bacteria, food particles and saliva components, on the teeth. 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. Over time the plaque and tartar can result in periodontal disease, which can result in irreversible changes to the teeth and supportive structures.

 

Periodontal disease can result in local problems, such as red and inflamed gums, bad breath, and the loss of teeth. There is also growing evidence that periodontal disease can be associated with disease in distant organs, including the heart, liver and kidneys. Ultimately, dental disease is more than just a cosmetic issue – it can be a cause of significant illness and pain in dogs and cats.

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 sedated or anaesthetised to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all teeth without distressing them. Once sedated or 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 clean the teeth using specialised instruments, including an 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 (only performed when under general anaesthesia).

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 dental homecare plan needs to be implemented to minimise build-up of plaque and tartar again. This may involve regular tooth brushing/wiping, and/or the feeding of special dental chews or diets. It is recommended that all pets be examined regularly after starting a dental homecare program to monitor its effectiveness.

How can I minimise ongoing dental disease?

Long-term control and prevention of dental disease requires regular dental 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, toothpaste and dental wipes are available at our clinic. Please do not use human toothpaste formulas as they are not designed to be swallowed and may be toxic to your pet.

Teeth friendly toys

Use of special dental chews, dental toys or dental diets, all of which may help keeping the teeth clean when used regularly.

As with most things in life, when it comes to dental disease, prevention is definitely better than cure. Regular and frequent attention to your pet's teeth may reduce the need for a professional dental clean under anaesthetic, and will also improve your pet's overall health.

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