Vet Stuff with Dr. Steph
Dental Series #1: Bad breath getting between you and your pet??
Is Fido’s breath stinking up the car? Does Muffin’s morning kiss bring a grimace instead of the smile it used to bring? Do you find yourself balking from Fluffy’s happy panting face? You are not alone.
Bad breath, or halitosis, can be a symptom of systemic disease such as diabetes, trauma, foreign body in the mouth, oral mass, or even upper respiratory disease. But the most likely culprit, by far, is dental disease.
If your pet is over the age of 2, you may have heard us comment on his or her teeth at the annual exam. It’s something we, as veterinarians, pay special attention to at every visit. Ok, so sometimes we might have a stressed out kitty who doesn’t appreciate our efforts to assess his pearly whites, or a growling land shark hoping to give us an impression of them in our forearm. However, for the most part, we can get a good idea of what is going on with your pet’s teeth with a thorough oral exam.
Lets face it, we know it’s not what you want to hear when we recommend that its time to have your fur- kid’s teeth cleaned professionally. Whether it’s fear of putting your loved one under general anesthetic, or fear of the cost of the procedure (or a little bit of both), it’s normal to feel your blood pressure start to rise at this point in the exam. Does he REALLY need it? I mean, he seems to be eating FINE!
Bad breath is caused by tartar buildup and periodontal disease. Superficially we see brown staining on your pet’s teeth and often redness around the gumline. What we don’t see, and what is far more important to the animal’s health, is the tartar below the gumline; this calcified bacteria can cause infection, bone loss, and gingival recession. This leads to chronic dental pain and eventually loss of teeth. Studies have shown that pets have a similar pain threshold to humans, so there is reason to believe that dental disease is causing them pain. Animals just tend to take a more stoic approach to chronic pain.
Scheduling your pet in for a dental cleaning under general anesthesia EARLY in this disease process will help ensure he keeps his chompers as long as possible, and remains free of oral pain and infection. When tartar buildup is minimal, his dental procedure should be fast and painless, consisting of a thorough examination and charting of all the teeth, removal of tartar above the gumline with an ultrasonic scaler, a careful removal of tartar below the gumline with a hand scaler and a careful polish to smooth the surface of the teeth to prevent tartar from adhering. We also offer full mouth oral x-rays to assess disease below the gumline.
So, maybe Molly’s mouth is beyond "early”? No worries, better late than never! Her procedure may take a little longer, and may require dental x-rays and tooth extractions; she may need some extra pain medications to go home with; but, I guarantee she will feel better with those diseased teeth out of her mouth rather than remain in.
Look forward to some more posts in my dental series this month!
-Dental home care for my pet
-Age is not a disease: senior pets need dental care too!
-A day in the life of a dentistry at Gateway Pet Hospital
-Non-anesthetic dentistry: why NOT to even consider it!