Dental disease is a very common and a preventable disease diagnosed on a daily basis in our practice. Dental disease starts with bacteria that live in the mouth of your pet.
No, your pet’s mouth is not cleaner than yours.
Yes it is a bad idea to let them lick you on the lips or in the mouth!
This bacteria builds up quickly in their mouth. In as little as 24 hours the bacterial populations can create a slime layer on the teeth that is impenetrable to oxygen and allows the growth of a group of bacteria that hates oxygen close to the gum and tooth. These bacteria are called anaerobic bacteria. Most of the bacteria that cause periodontal disease are anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria combine with the minerals in the saliva as well as food particles and cause the build-up of plaque. This build-up progresses to dental calculus and begins eating away at the periodontal ligament that holds the tooth in the bone. Dental disease has the potential to cause a host of oral problems such as; stomatitis, gingivitis, loose and missing teeth, decreased ability to eat, pain when eating, and foul odor to the breath. However, due to the rich blood supply to the gums and mouth, bacterial infections in the mouth enter the blood supply and can also lead to many other medical conditions not immediately related to the mouth such as; systemic infections, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, ocular disease, bone infections, and reproduction issues.
Many clients are often surprised that their pet has dental disease. This surprises them because they think that strategies like chewing on bones and dental treats should prevent this from happening. I often like to joke with these clients and ask them to approach their own dental hygiene with this strategy and consult their dentist for an opinion on this approach. This usually gets the laughing response that it is intended to draw. But it also makes it very obvious to us that there is absolutely no substitute for a good brushing and cleaning program. It is easy to get sucked into the marketing campaign of some of these products that are advertised to us to make this procedure easier. The best dental hygiene program for your pet involves a daily brushing program and a routine professional dental cleaning program. Brushing the teeth is usually a fairly simple task and it will reap huge benefits to your pet’s health as well as your pocket book when done routinely and properly. We would love to spend the time to demonstrate to you how to properly brush your pet’s teeth.
Another common concern of clients is the cost of a professional veterinary dental cleaning. It is not uncommon to get the comment from a client that “it costs more to clean my pet’s teeth than to have my own teeth cleaned”. This simply is not true. A large portion of the cost associated with cleaning our pet’s teeth involves the proper administration and maintenance of anesthesia that is necessary to accomplish this task. Secondly, most of these individuals are not comparing apples to apples. They look at the cost of a routine human dental prophylaxis and compare this to what is being done in their pet’s mouth. Many times our pet’s mouth get ignored until the infection is so severe that the smell of pus on their breath is clearing the entire room and teeth are falling out unassisted. If this was the case in any of us, not only would we not have any one in the same room as us, but we would surely need more than a routine dental cleaning. This is also true of many of our pets. What we call a dental procedure is often far more than a simple prophylaxis. This often involves deep periodontal cleanings and periodontal antibiotic administration, complicated dental extractions, radiographs, and oral surgery. The cost for these procedures for a human would be far more significant than that of a simple dental prophylaxis.
Few of us were taught as children that our pets needed routine dental care, but it is true. I can speak first hand to the amazing effect that a proper dental procedure can have on the quality of our pet’s lives. It is simply amazing how these creatures can live in silence with horrible dental disease that would floor many of us humans. To watch these animal’s lives be transformed after removal of the dental disease is often one of the most gratifying feelings for me as a veterinarian.