Keeping Your Dog Healthy: The Importance of Regular Dental Care

While some owners know that bad breath coming from their dog’s mouth can indicate a tooth problem, most owners are unaware that maintaining proper oral health in their dogs can prevent not only bad breath, but tooth loss and pain as well. Click here to learn more about the causes of bad breath in dogs. Maintaining a healthy mouth requires regular visits to the veterinarian as well as home dental care by owners.IMG 52411 300x200 featured2

Oral Evaluation by a Veterinarian

A complete oral health evaluation by a veterinarian or veterinary dentist requires that your dog be placed under general anesthesia. This is necessary for many reasons. First, we want your dog to be comfortable. Cleaning the teeth involves removing calculus or tarter both above and below gum line which can be uncomfortable or even painful to your dog. In addition, it is impossible to evaluate inside of the mouth, including the inside Dog Rad 2 150x150 featured2 surface of the teeth, pockets between the gums and teeth, and fractured teeth in an awake patient. A complete physical exam and blood panel should be performed before your dog is anesthetized to ensure that he or she is healthy and to minimize the risk. Once your dog is anesthetized, the teeth will be cleaned and polished. After cleaning, an oral exam is performed where any loose, discolored or fractured teeth are noted. In addition, pockets are measured. Pockets can form between a tooth and the gum and indicate periodontal disease, or bone loss. Dental radiographs (x-rays) are taken to look for abscesses, bone loss around the tooth roots, or fractured tooth roots. Many times a tooth will appear normal at the surface but have bone loss or an abscess that is found with radiographs. These radiographs, in addition to the information dog rad 1 150x150 featured2 gained during the oral examination, help the veterinarian make a treatment plan for your dog.

Click here to learn more about why it is important that your pet’s oral evaluation and cleaning be performed by a licensed veterinarian with general anesthesia.

Treatment of Dental Disease

Treatment may involve extraction of teeth, root canal therapy, or periodontal surgery where the pocket is cleaned out and a long-acting antibiotic gel is injected. In many cases this can save the tooth. Broken teeth where the pulp Dog Rad 3 150x150 featured2 or center of the tooth is exposed need to be treated with either extraction or root canal therapy. Exposed pulp allows bacteria into the root and eventually results in an abscess formation and pain.

Home Dental Care

After your dog comes home, you can maintain your dog’s mouth by brushing the teeth at least 4 times a week with toothpaste designed for pets. A toothbrush or finger brush can be used, depending on the size of the dog. Click here to view a demonstration of how best to brush your dog’s teeth at home. In addition to brushing, there are diets, chews, treats, and oral rinses that can be used which will help. The Veterinary Oral Health Council has reviewed material provided by the manufacturer of dental products and given their seal of approval to products meeting their standards. Frequent examination at home will help find minor problems in your dog’s mouth before they become major problems.
Finally, do not allow your dog to chew on hard bones or toys. These toys will break teeth which will require treatment by your vet. Use caution when playing fetch or Frisbee with your dog as hard toys can cause trauma to the tooth which can eventually cause the tooth to die.

Don’t forget about the felines in your household! Click here to learn about why dental care is important for the health of your cat. Click here to learn how to provide at home dental care between professional cleanings.

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Dr Jill Christofferson

Jill Christofferson, DVM is an experienced veterinary general practitioner. Her professional interests include ophthalmology, dentistry, and reproduction.

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