February is National Pet Dental Health Month! Our pets are members of our families. They eat with us, sleep with us, and depend upon us to take care of them. When pets develop dental problems, they have no way of letting us know of their discomfort. Therefore, it is up to us to care for them.
Dentisty For Animals?
Root canals, dental x-rays, orthodontics, crowns, caps, implants, and periodontal surgery for pets? You must be kidding! Not at all. Dental procedures similar to a human dental practice are performed daily in veterinary practices. How does a loving pet owner know if dental care is needed? Here are some clues to help.
Prevention is always the first step. Daily brushing is the ideal home care but is not always an option for all cats. A small cat sized brush may be more comfortable than a standard brush. Also, using pet specific tooth paste is important because it is safe to be swallowed, does not foam up, and tastes yummy! Click here for a great video by Cornell University that illustrates proper teeth brushing techniques and tips. Other options that can help oral health include Hills Prescription T/D diet, a crunchy kibble diet that can be fed daily (as long as your cat has no concurrent health concerns) or as a treat. The shape and consistency of the kibble helps mechanically clean the tooth surface of plaque before it becomes tartar. CET Dental treats are also helpful in mechanically removing tartar. All of these items are available at Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center.
Examination is the key to help determine the type whether your home care is sufficient or if professional intervention is needed. A pet owner can help by examining their pet's teeth and oral cavity at least monthly. First smell your cat's breath. If you sense a disagreeable odor, gum disease may be present. Periodontal disease is the most common ailment of small animals. Gum problems begin when bacteria accumulates at the gumline around the tooth. Unless brushed away daily, these bacteria can lead to gingivitis, cause bleeding, and if untreated, cause tooth and jaw bone loss. Other signs you may notice are red swollen gums, tartar (a yellow or brown accumulation on the tooth surface), or loose teeth.
Take A Look:
When examining your cat's mouth, look for chips, pits or fractures on the tooth's surface. Small pieces of enamel occasionally chip off, which may cause no harm. Deeper chips may cause sensitivity in your pet if they are not treated. Notice if your cat chatters his or her mouth or jumps when you touch certain spots. If a fracture is deep you may notice a red, brown, or black spot in the middle of the tooth's surface. The spot is the pulp or root canal, which may which be open inside the mouth, eventually leading to a tooth abscess.
A Trip To The Vet:
When your home exam reveals dental problems or if you are still uncertain, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. The veterinary oral examination will begin with a complete visual examination of the face, mouth and each tooth. Frequently pet's mouths have several different problems that need care. The veterinarian may use a record chart similar to the one used by human dentists to identify and document such dental problems.
A more detailed exam then follows. Unfortunately cats cannot point to dental abnormalities with their paws so in order to determine the proper treatment plan, other tests are usually necessary. Sedation and anesthesia are essential for an adequate evaluation. Anesthesia allows the veterinarian to thoroughly examine each tooth individually. Proper dentistry can not be performed on an awake patient. Additionally, radiographs of the entire tooth structure may be needed to fully evaluate teeth. Modern veterinary medicine offers a wide array of safe and effective anesthetics and monitoring equipment that allay previous concerns of anesthesia.
Once anesthetized, your cat's teeth will be scaled and polished with equipment similar to your own dental office. Fluoride is applied to help strengthen enamel and protect the tooth. Your veterinarian or assistant will use a periodontal probe to measure gum pocket depths around each tooth and chart the mouth. Again, probing is an essential part of evaluation and can not be done without anesthesia. One or two millimeters of probe depth normally exists around each tooth. When cats are affected by periodontal disease, the depths may increase. If the probe depth is great, there may be periodontal disease that requires additional care to save the tooth. Unfortunately by the time some pets come in for dental care, it is too late to save all of the teeth. Preventative care and periodic check ups should help hinder the loss of additional teeth.
Take A Closer Look:
Your veterinarian may also take x-rays of some or all of the teeth. X-rays show the inside of the tooth and the root that lies below the gumline. At Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center, we utilize digital veterinary x-ray equipment which enables us to quickly produce x-ray images. Many decisions are based on x-ray findings. If extractions or periodontal treatments are warranted, the veterinarian will perform these procedures and administer pain control medication to help make your cat more comfortable following the treatment. X-rays can also be used to show the pet owner how home dental care should be improved in order to save teeth.
Pets do not have to suffer the pain and discomfort of untreated broken or loose teeth or infected gums. With the help of thorough examinations, x-rays, dental care, and daily brushing, your pet can keep its teeth in its mouth where they should be.
If you would like to read more about specific dental issues common to cats and see photos, please visit our dental page on our website (Click here.)
It is with great sadness that we inform everyone of the passing of our hospital mascot, Dizzy. You may have seen this sweet calico around the office. She gave us 21 wonderful years of greeting clients at the door, cuddling on our desks, loud purring and love. We miss her antics and calls for treats everyday. Dizzy warmed everyone's heart and we are glad for the time she shared with us here.
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Thank you for taking the time to read about dental health! If you have questions or would like to schedule a dental exam, please call us. We look forward to serving you!
See you all soon,
The Cheshire Cat Team