Why does my veterinarian keep recommending my pet get a dental cleaning, you might ask? Well, for so many vital reasons. Our mouths are a very important part of our bodies. They are the gateway to our bodies and if left untreated, it will allow bacteria to build up in dangerous numbers, risking the health of vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver and brain. As humans, we look after our teeth; we brush, we floss, we visit the dentist regularly and the reality of it is, our pets deserve the same!
What is going on in that mouth? Well it all starts with bacteria. Bacteria are always forming in the mouth, even our own… right from the minute we stop brushing! Those bacteria are what lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal or gum disease in pets is much more prevalent than you may think. By the age of two, a staggering 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of dental disease. Bacteria sit on our pet’s teeth in the soft white matter known as plaque. With the help of the minerals in your pet’s saliva, the plaque will turn into tartar.
Tartar is that brown hard substance you see on your pet’s teeth. Now, most humans hopefully don’t let their mouths get to this point because they brush daily; this is why we recommend daily tooth brushing for pets as well. Without daily brushing the tartar will be well on its way to forming in a remarkably short period of time. Unfortunately, when it comes to tartar the only way to get rid of it is with a professional dental cleaning. And what you can see with your eyes is just the tip of the iceberg! Tartar and plaque will also start to accumulate under the gum line which will eventually lead to tooth decay and ultimately tooth loss. This is why it is strongly recommended that professional dental cleanings be performed sooner rather than later, and why we recommend at home daily dental care…the topic of our next blog so please stay tuned.
People may ask “why can’t we just clean my pet’s teeth while they are in for their annual check ups? Why does he need an anesthetic?” Firstly, pets will not co-operate or understand why they need to stay still for a thorough and complete job to be done. Secondly, using sharp instruments in an awake animals mouth, can lead to tragic and unnecessary injuries should they move at the wrong time. Finally, if you are just removing the tartar that you see on the teeth you are leaving behind all the tartar and plaque you can’t see below the gum line. This is by far the most important area to be cleaned and it needs to be addressed on each surface of a pet’s teeth. Cleaning the tongue side of each tooth is completely impossible on any awake pet! Ultimately, only removing the tartar that is seen above the gum line makes teeth “prettier” but it most certainly does not make them healthier!
In addition, while a pet is under anesthesia we are able to do a complete oral check, probe all surfaces of their teeth looking for any deep pockets between the tooth and the gum line, take x-rays to look for bone loss and if needed remove any decaying teeth. Believe us. We would rather not have to extract any teeth! This is why we want your pet to receive dental care sooner rather than later. We want your pet to keep all their teeth for their entire lives!
If you have any questions or concerns with regards to dental cleaning please do not hesitate to call the clinic at 905-853-4706.
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Suzanne, Registered Veterinary Technician