The most common disease in pet animals is periodontal disease. In fact, 80% of dogs and cats will have periodontal disease by the age of 3.
Periodontal disease can also lead to infections that introduce bacteria into other parts of the body. In other words, bad teeth can lead to a sick animal.
Not caring for your pet’s teeth can lead to serious systemic (whole body) infections, and can even result in broken jaws, which sometimes can only be treated by removing the infected portion of the jaw. Diet can contribute to periodontal disease to a certain degree, but genetics are a huge factor, as well as the amount of home care (brushing, specifically) performed. Trauma from chewing objects that are too hard, or wearing down teeth area is another cause of dental disease.
Dental procedures really should not be called “dentals”. When you go to the doctor for an exam, you are not going to get a “medical”. The term “dental” does not really make sense.
What your pet is really coming in for is an “Oral Assessment and Treatment Plan”. Contrary to what most people believe, there is much more involved than simply cleaning the tartar that can be seen on the teeth.
The Oral Assessment involves the technician using a probe to look at each surface of EVERY tooth (just like when you go to the dentist), followed by recording of any significant periodontal pockets (areas in which there is loss of attachment of the gum tissue and surrounding bone). Full mouth X-rays are also done to evaluate the areas under the gum-line, where a lot of disease often lurks. Next, the doctor will thoroughly examine the teeth as well as the rest of the oral cavity for any unusual lesions. It is only after this is done that a true Treatment Plan and cost estimate can be given. There is no way to fully examine and evaluate the oral cavity when the pet is awake.
An Oral Assessment is the only definitive way to determine if your pet has periodontal disease. Owners often believe that their pet is disease free because he or she is still eating and drinking.
This is not true. Every pet has a different pain tolerance. In addition, instinctively, pets will continue to eat and drink until the pain is so unbearable they cannot tolerate it anymore. When in pain, the choice for the pet is either to eat, or to starve. He/She will eat whatever they are able to in order to survive.
After the Oral Assessment is done, the tartar on the crown (the portion of the teeth you can see) will be removed, then the tooth surfaces are polished. An antiseptic solution is also used to flush around all the teeth.
None of those things can be done without anesthesia. This is the main reason many people are afraid of having an Oral Assessment performed on their pet; they fear the risks of anesthesia. Although there are risks involved with anesthesia, the risk of untreated dental disease is much greater, and will shorten your pet’s life, as well as result in decreased quality of life due to pain.
At The Whole Pet, every precaution is taken to minimize the risks of anesthesia. Before anesthesia is used, your pet will have blood work to ensure they are healthy enough for the procedure. If necessary your pet will be pre-medicated. During the procedure your pet will receive local, gas anesthesia, and IV fluids and his/her temperature will be kept stable using a special warm air blanket. Your pet’s blood pressure, heart rhythm and temperature will be constantly monitored. In addition, a doctor will be present with the technician during the entire procedure.