The vet’s office: Scrub those pearly whites
February is Pet Dental Health Month
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Pet Dental Health Month provides veterinarians a chance to focus on this one very important topic. The hope is that clients will pay more attention to their pet’s mouths and will seek professional dental care.
Another aspect is educating clients on how to provide effective home oral health care. Pets are very good at hiding signs of tooth pain, which tends to come on very gradually. The infection of periodontal disease causes a slow, progressive damage to the pet’s internal organs. This may not be apparent initially, but it may impact the pet’s long-term health.
There are many steps in providing professional dental service. Since the patient needs to be under anesthesia, the first will be the general health exam, including blood tests as needed. An awake, oral exam will be done to assess the bite and check for signs of pain on opening and closing the jaws. Once the pet is anesthetized, a technician is dedicated to monitoring that pet while another does the actual cleaning and evaluations.
The entire oral cavity will be examined for anything abnormal, and a complete dental charting of the health of each tooth will be made. Small oral tumors are sometimes found and can be biopsied or removed in early stages. The gumline is gently probed around each tooth, searching for the deeper pockets of periodontal disease where the bacteria have gotten into tissues along the roots. These areas may need additional root and tissue treatments.
The teeth will be polished to smooth the surfaces and make them more resistant to staining and calculus accumulation. At this point dental X-rays may be taken of problem areas and sometimes of the entire mouth.
Additional treatments such as oral surgery to remove problem teeth may be needed and will be performed by the veterinarian. After the dental treatments, the patient will be monitored in recovery from anesthesia until discharge from the hospital. The clients will receive instructions for take home care and make follow-up appointments.
Dental home care is vital to keeping the pet’s mouth healthy. Plaque will begin to accumulate in a biofilm on the teeth within 20 minutes of a tooth cleaning. If it is left untouched on the tooth, it will begin to harden into calculus within 48 hours.
The key is to bring pets in for regular professional treatments and to follow-up with dental care at home.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.