Pet Dental Health
On average, people visit their dentist every six months. But how often do you provide dental care for your dog or cat? Many of the same dental illnesses and conditions humans develop are also developed by pets. Taking care of your pet’s teeth and gums is essential to maintaining good health; and just like in humans, complications can arise from diseases left untreated.
- Periodontal gum disease is the biggest threat to your pet’s dental health. It develops when bacteria builds up on the animal’s gum line, forming plaque, which then hardens and calcifies, irritating the gums. Over time, the teeth begin to separate from the gums and bacteria builds up at the teeth’s roots. If left untreated, an abscess can form, causing extreme pain and inability to eat. Reddened gums and excessively bad breath are initial indicators, while receding gums are visible in the disease’s later stages. If an abscess is present, facial swelling, bad breath, and an inability to chew normally will be noticeable. Professional teeth cleaning is required to remove the plaque, and in advanced cases a gel may be used to fill gaps between gum and tooth.
- Cavities are another dental issue commonly found in pets. Just as in humans, cavities result from the decaying of hard tooth tissue due to a build-up of bacteria. A cavity may be visible on your pet’s tooth, but there are no other symptoms. The hole in your pet’s tooth may be filled by a veterinary dentist, but if the tooth has decayed too much it may have to be removed via extraction.
- Tissue inflammation and ulcers in the mouth are another concern for pet parents. While some pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, some immune diseases, hypothyroidism, and lupus can cause these injuries, there are also many other causes. Malnutrition, an electrical shock injury, or trauma to the mouth can all cause mouth inflammation and formation of ulcers. Symptoms include chronic bad breath, swollen gums, “ropey” saliva, and loss of appetite. Veterinary care depends on the underlying cause, but most often drugs will be prescribed to reduce inflammation along with topical ointments and anesthetics for the ulcers.
Visiting Your Vet
If you notice any unusual changes in your pet’s eating habits, including loss of appetite and inability to chew, seek veterinary care. Any visible malformations of your cat or dog’s gums, cheeks, tongue, or teeth should also be reasons to make an appointment. If you have a puppy or kitten, pay close attention to your pet’s teeth as they develop; crowded teeth can also cause inflammation and pain as well as structural anomalies that may require treatment to correct.
Preventing Dental Issues
It is recommended that your pet visit a vet for a professional teeth cleaning once a year. This is a multistep procedure that can ensure your pet’s continued health.
- Physical exam.
Because teeth cleaning requires your pet to be put under anesthesia, an exam is required to ensure he or she is healthy enough to undergo the procedure. Blood and urine tests may be run as well as x-rays, depending on your pet’s medical history, age, and other factors. An exam will also be performed specifically on the mouth and face area to diagnose any abnormalities and target specific areas for cleaning.
- Exam under anesthesia.
Your dog or cat will be temporarily put to sleep with the help of anesthesia. A veterinary technician will closely monitor your pet’s condition throughout the procedure and keep an eye on vital signs, including heartbeat and body temperature. A more intense exam will be conducted by the vet to further look for dental conditions such as cavities, periodontal disease, and ulcers.
- Tooth cleaning.
Ultrasonic cleaning tools along with hand instruments will be used to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth, especially along the gum line and roots of the teeth. During this step, any rough tooth surfaces will be filed down by hand.
- Tooth polishing.
With a high-speed hand tool, the vet will smooth and even out the surface of your dog or cat’s teeth.
This liquid is brushed onto your pet’s teeth for around four minutes and works to harden enamel and reduce any pain or discomfort resulting from the cleaning.
- Post-cleaning exam.
If any new abnormalities have been discovered, x-rays may be taken to further explore the condition. Your vet will note the procedure’s course and your pet’s physical health at this time.
Of course, pet parents should continue to care for their pet’s dental health at home with regular tooth brushings.
What Pet Insurance Covers
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance covers accidental injury to your dog or cat’s teeth, including extractions and reconstructions. Routine dental care, such as the professional cleanings described above, is considered preventative and is not covered. Taking care of your dog or cat’s dental health is essential to keeping a healthy pet. With preventative at-home and professional cleanings, you can ensure no dental abnormalities or illnesses will develop.