Dental disease is the most common clinical condition affecting dogs and cats. This is not surprising when you think that like us, they should have their teeth cleaned daily! Unfortunately, other than bad breath, the signs are not usually obvious to owners, as pets instinctively hide any signs of illness. Many of our furry friends will have chronic pain from dental disease without us even knowing. What might be assumed to be grumpy behaviour in an older pet may in fact be caused by toothache, and after a dental these pets often act ‘years younger’. It often surprises me how brave & stoic our pets are – if only they could tell us! This is one of the reasons an annual health check by your vet is so vital.
Dental disease requires a scale and polish under general anaesthesia, with or without teeth extractions. Although many owners are nervous of anaesthesia, it is extremely low risk and far out-weighed by the benefits gained from a healthy mouth. A pre-anaesthetic assessment is performed, ideally with a blood test to check vital organ function. Once under anaesthesia, the teeth are cleaned and tooth/gum health checked. Of particular importance is the use of Dental xrays. This allows the jaw, teeth and roots to be accurately assessed. When teeth are removed, local anaesthetic nerve blocks are used to numb the area, which minimizes the depth of anaesthesia and prevents pain. Patients are usually awake within 15 minutes of completion of the dental and go home the same day with pain relief or antibiotics, depending on the dental disease treated.
Dental disease can be prevented by daily teeth cleaning using a toothbrush & pet toothpaste, or for those pets that object, there are special veterinary dental diets that clean the teeth as they eat! Visit your vet today for a dental check-up and treatment plan.
Nina Smith: BVSc