Dental Exam & Cleaning: A Guide for Pet Parents
Dental health in both dogs and cats is as important as it is for people. As a pet owner, it’s important to know the ins and outs of dental care as your buddy will need an oral exam and a dental cleaning at some point in their life.
These dental procedures involve our caring and professional vet staff who want to make sure your pet’s pearly whites are healthy.
Pet owners will hear the term, COHAT, and which stands for Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment. This goes well beyond a dental cleaning and addresses the health of the pet’s entire mouth. A veterinarian will prepare a treatment plan for any oral health issues and a true COHAT helps keep your dog healthy and happy.
How Often Do Pets Need a COHAT?
The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that you take your pet for annual dental cleanings from the age of one or two years. Pets may lose their teeth if they don’t get regular cleanings.
Signs a Dog Needs a Dental Checkup
Wellness appointments include an oral exam, and your vet will discuss the importance of annual dental cleanings. However, between annual wellness appointments, you may notice your cat or dog isn’t as interested in kibble, has terrible breath, or is losing weight. These top signs of dental disease are common when their mouth is painful and you should schedule an appointment with us if your pet is uncomfortable. Dogs and cats hide pain well!
Gingivitis Versus Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease (more advanced dental inflammation) affects approximately 80% of pets over three years of age. Regular dental exams are an important part of your pet’s care regimen in order to avoid the condition. Dental disease may lead to issues with your pet’s organs like heart disease.
Want to know the difference between Gingivitis and Periodontal disease? Let’s start with the basics. The definitions of these important terms are important for pet owners to know:
- Gingivitis refers to inflammation of the gingiva. This represents the early stages of periodontitis and is reversible with dental care.
- Periodontitis describes inflammation of the gingiva and other structures of the periodontium. Once periodontitis occurs it is difficult to reverse without a dental cleaning.
Top Signs of Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats
Dogs and cats oftentimes will hide that they’re not feeling well from their parents. Typical signs of dental disease may overlap with other illnesses but these are the (sometimes subtle) symptoms to pay attention to.
- Stinky breath
- Irritated, red gums
- Intense drooling
- Whimpering while eating
- Loose teeth (may also be discolored)
- Mouth may bleed
- Decreased energy and acting grumpy.
Ins and Outs of Your Pet’s Dental Appointment
When you drop your dog or cat off for their dental exam and cleaning, it’s important to know what’s involved.
Pre-anesthetic Lab Work is Essential Before Any Procedure
A few weeks before the dental appointment, your veterinarian will perform pre-anesthetic lab work and examine for underlying disorders prior to the procedure. This is very important as there are many reasons the diagnostics could result in another treatment plan and perhaps the dental cleaning will be put on hold. Your pet’s safety is our number one priority.
What Is Involved During a Dental Cleaning?
Every dental cleaning begins with a comprehensive oral examination.
- A vet will evaluate structures of the face, head, and neck.
- The intraoral structures are examined, including teeth and soft tissues.
- Scaling and polishing are the most common dental cleaning procedures.
- Full mouth radiographs (x-rays) are obtained.
Dental X-rays Are Always Necessary
Dental radiology (x-rays) is extremely important, as a disease can easily be missed without examining beneath the gum margin. The gum margin is the border of the gingiva surrounding, but unattached to, the substance of the teeth. You are only seeing approximately half of the tooth structure without these x-rays.
Is Sedation Necessary for Pet Dental Exams?
Sedation will be needed for this comprehensive dental exam and cleaning. Anesthesia is needed to do radiographs to look at the tooth roots and surrounding bone, dental probes to assess the pocket depth and look for any enamel damage. If a bad tooth is found upon examination it is usually extracted as the individual is already under anesthesia. Teeth are then cleaned and polished, just like with humans.
Thoughts on Anesthesia Free Dentistry
There are many risks to Anesthesia Free Dentistry or No Anesthesia Dentistry (NAD). The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) states that an oral exam and x-rays cannot be done on an awake pet, stating: “During a thorough oral health exam, all surfaces of your pet’s mouth are evaluated and radiographs are taken. A sleeping pet allows a veterinarian to identify and address painful problems including broken teeth, periodontal disease or even oral tumors.”
Are Dental Cleanings Really Important for Pets?
When dogs and cats get gingivitis or periodontal disease, bacteria can cause:
- Oral infections that cause bleeding
- Damage to the soft tissues and bone anchoring the teeth
- Painful abscesses
- Bacteria entering the bloodstream
- Infections elsewhere in the body
Research shows that inflammation in any part of the body can have a negative impact on your pet’s internal organs. With this in mind, it’s never too early to start brushing your pet’s teeth.
Cleaning Your Pet’s Teeth at Home
Plaque begins to mineralize as early as 24-hours after adhering to the tooth surface. Daily brushing really helps! Brushing and diets can also help reduce plaque. At-home care is not a replacement for dental cleanings but a wonderful way to bond with your animal companion.
Eliminate Your Pet’s Stinky Breath
The dental health of your furry friend is essential to maintaining their overall health. Talk to your veterinarian to help you decide when a dental cleaning is needed. Remember the red flags highlighted above! Bad breath is a clear sign your furry buddy needs to see us for a dental exam.
Certain breeds and some animals with poor genetics or poor nutrition may be more prone to dental disease and need more dental care throughout their lives. Let our professional veterinary team help you decide when a dental cleaning or care is needed.
Book a COHAT for your pet today! Your pets will thank you!