Pet Dental Care

Performing cat or dog teeth cleaning is an important task to keep their mouth free of bacteria which could cause a variety of dental problems. Contact TLC Animal Hospital in El Paso to make an appointment with our veterinarian for pet dental care assistance. Our vet will handle dog or cat teeth cleaning as well as conduct an evaluation of the condition of your pet's teeth. Here is some information about pet dental care to read over and how veterinary care can help.

Why Teeth Cleaning Is Important

A pet's teeth will become covered with bacteria that will eventually harden into tartar if it is not removed. Since a pet cannot do the process themselves, they need assistance from their owner or a vet to keep teeth clean. Failing to brush or wipe down your pet's teeth regularly can lead to gingivitis or periodontal disease. These conditions cause bleeding or inflammation of the gums and will eventually lead to tooth loss.

How To Clean Your Pet's Teeth

Pet stores carry dog and cat teeth cleaning products to remove bacteria effectively. If you opt for a toothbrush and paste, gently apply the substance to your pet's teeth and rub their surfaces to remove debris. Many pets will become used to the taste of pet toothpaste in time and will allow for the brushing procedure to be conducted. If brushing is too difficult, wipe the surfaces of the teeth with a pet dental wipe every few days. These wipes will remove food particles which could lead to bacteria accumulation.

What Our Vet Will Do To Help

If you are unable to brush or wipe your pet's teeth effectively, or if you feel your pet is suffering from a dental problem, a trip to see our veterinarian for a dental care examination is best. Dental care is provided during routine examinations as well. Our veterinarian will first do a complete evaluation of your pet's teeth to check for problems like decay, missing pieces, or looseness.

If a tooth needs to be pulled, the process can be conducted in our office. The teeth will be cleaned using a scaling tool. This will remove plaque and tartar from the teeth so they can be checked over once again for any problems. It is best to have your pet's teeth cleaned professionally at least once a year to check for problems they may be suffering from.

Why Dental Health Is Important

One of the most common, and most preventable, diseases of dogs and cats is dental (periodontal) disease. Periodontal disease is the number one health problem in cats and dogs. By 2 years of age, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have some form of periodontal disease. This disease is also one of the most under-treated conditions of cats and dogs. This is partially because there are generally no outward signs of disease. Though this condition can be very painful, most animals show little or no signs of obvious pain. This is because the disease progresses gradually and most pets are so accustomed to the discomfort, they do not react as we would expect them to. Signs of periodontal disease include halitosis (bad breath), reluctance to chew on treats/toys, reluctance or difficulty eating hard food, chewing on only one side of the mouth, blood-tinged saliva, drooling, pain when the mouth is touched, etc. Again, many pets with periodontal disease may not display these signs. In order to determine if periodontal disease is present, a thorough oral exam should be performed by a veterinarian. In addition to severe, chronic mouth pain, periodontal disease leads to oral infections that start in the gums and move to the bone of the jaw. The infection eats away at the bone, causing bone loss which may then result in jaw fracture. Some tooth infections can even threaten other facial structures, such as the eyes and nose. These infections can also travel to the tissues of the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, causing organ dysfunction. There is an increased incidence of strokes, diabetes, and cancer in pets with untreated periodontal disease. Studies have found an increased risk of "generalized early mortality" associated with periodontal disease in humans, which is likely also the case with our pets. In human medicine, periodontal disease is more strongly linked with early mortality than smoking! Veterinary dentists refer to periodontal disease as a "silent killer". Many pets silently suffer from this condition and, without treatment, potentially fatal consequences may result.

A common myth involving dental cleanings and periodontal treatment is that older pets or animals with existing medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, etc) are not good candidates for anesthesia and dental cleanings or treatment. This is NOT TRUE! While anesthesia always involves some inherent risk, modern anesthetics and monitoring are very safe and problems are rare. Pets are never too old for proper dental care. We routinely anesthetize and perform dental work on geriatric pets. Additionally, the pets with existing heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, etc stand to benefit the most from having their periodontal disease treated. As discussed above, untreated periodontal disease can cause infection and dysfunction of these organ systems. In some pets, improvement is seen with their kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, etc after their periodontal disease is treated! Many owners also report a dramatic improvement in energy level and behavior once their pet has been treated for periodontal disease.

For a more detailed explanation of periodontal disease, see the video below, courtesy of board certified veterinary dentist Dr. Brook Niemiec:

For more information on how oral health affects the rest of the body, see board certified veterinary dentist Dr. Brett Beckman's video below.

In the followng video, Dr. Beckman also discusses how easy it is to miss signs of pain and discomfort associated with periodontal disease.

Dental Prophylaxis (Dental Cleaning)

We recommend that every pet be evaluated at least once yearly to determine if he or she needs a dental cleaning. Most veterinary dentists recommend yearly cleanings for cats and dogs to maintain their oral health. At TLC Animal Hospital, every dental prophylaxis includes tooth scaling (removing tartar and plaque), tooth polishing, anesthetized oral exam with probing of each individual tooth, and dental radiographs (x-rays) to identify problems below the gum line. If abnormalities are found, the veterinarian may recommend bonded sealant treatment, local antibiotic application, root planing or tooth extraction if indicated.

The equipment we use to perform the cleaning and polishing is the same type of equipment a human dentist uses. However, since a pet will not sit still and "open wide" for the procedure, the only way to do a thorough dental cleaning and exam is to use general anesthesia. We require that any animal over the age of 8 years have a pre-anesthetic blood work run to assess the overall health and safety of anesthesia for that pet.

Dental Care at Home

Possibly the most critical step in maintaining clean teeth and healthy gums is home dental care. Just like with people, a combination of good dental hygiene at home and regular professional cleanings are the best way to ensure healthy teeth and gums. Tooth brushing is the best way to keep your pet's teeth and gums clean at home. However, not all pets will allow routine brushing, so we have several products and suggestions for incorporating home dental care for your pet.

Learn How to Brush Your Pet's Teeth

Help prevent dental disease by brushing your pet's teeth. It only takes 24 hours for plaque, which is made up of almost pure bacteria (yuck!), to establish itself on the surface of teeth after a brushing or dental cleaning. If left undisturbed, this plaque mineralizes into cement-like tartar (also known as calculus) within 3 days and gum inflammation/infection (gingivitis) occurs within 2 weeks. If started early, regular tooth brushing can stop this progression. Tooth brushing takes time and patience to teach your dog or cat to accept and even enjoy, but it pays off with a more comfortable, healthy mouth and reduced professional dental treatment costs. The best thing to do is start tooth brush training when your pet is young, before periodontal disease has had a chance to establish itself. Tooth brushing is only recommended for animals who do not currently have dental tartar or infections (tooth brushing will not reverse tooth disease once it is already established and will only cause your pet discomfort), so have your pet's mouth examined by a veterinary professional before starting tooth brushing. If your pet has established dental disease, a professional dental cleaning is recommended, followed by tooth brushing 10-14 days later (after gum inflammation has resolved). Just as with people, tooth brushing is ideally performed every day. If this is not possible, try to brush your pet's teeth at least 3 times a week. Step by step printed instructions are available HERE

If you have any questions about dental care, or any aspect of your pet's health care, please feel free to call and speak with a staff member.

Contact TLC Animal Hospital in El Paso, TX!

When your pet requires cat or dog teeth cleaning or other pet dental needs, contact  TLC Animal Hospital in El Paso to schedule an appointment for veterinary care. Call our office at (915) 592-6200 for more information about the services we provide or to ask us questions.


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