Ongoing updates for your pet. Brought to you by Central Houston Animal Hospital.
Plaque: Pets rarely get cavities, but are much more prone to gum disease and excess tartar build-up on the teeth. Food particles and bacteria collect along the gumline forming plaque. Routine home care can remove this plaque.
Tartar: If plaque is not removed, minerals in the saliva combine with the plaque and form tartar (or calculus) which adheres strongly to the teeth. Plaque starts to mineralize 3-5 days after it forms. The tartar is irritating to the gums and causes an inflammation called gingivitis. This can be seen as reddening of the gums adjacent to the teeth and also causes bad breath. At this point it is necessary to remove the tartar with special instruments called scalers, and then polish the teeth.
Periodontal Disease: If the tartar is not removed, it builds up under the gums. It separates the gums from the teeth to form “pockets” and encourages even more bacterial growth. At this point the damage is irreversible, and called “periodontal” disease. It can be very painful and can lead to loose teeth, abscesses, and bone loss or infection. As bacterial growth continues to increase, the bacteria may enter the bloodstream. This can cause infection of the heart valves (endocarditis), liver, and kidneys. If treated by your veterinarian with special instruments and procedures, periodontal disease can be slowed or stopped.
Oral Exams by Your Veterinarian: A thorough dental exam can identify potential problems such as plaque and tartar build-up, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and fractured or abscessed teeth. During an oral exam your veterinarian will:
• Examine the animal’s face and head for asymmetry, swelling, or discharges.
• Examine the outside surfaces of teeth and gums, and the “bite”.
• Open the mouth to examine the inner surfaces of the teeth and gums and the tongue, palates, oral mucosa, tonsils, and ventral tongue area.
Dental Cleaning by Your Veterinarian: To prevent dental disease, your dog needs routine dental care at home. But to perform good home care, you need to start with clean teeth. Brushing will remove plaque but not tartar. So if your dog’s teeth have tartar, it is necessary for your veterinarian to remove it and polish the teeth. This professional veterinary dental cleaning is often called a prophylaxis or “prophy.” A routine dental cleaning consists of:
• Anesthetizing your dog.
• Cleaning the teeth with handheld and ultrasonic scalers. All calculus is removed from above and below the gumline. This is extremely important and can only be done if the animal is under anesthesia.
• Polishing the teeth to remove microscopic scratches.
• Inspecting each tooth and the gum around it for any signs of disease.
• Applying a dental agent to retard plaque build up.
• Recording any abnormalities or additional procedures on a dental chart.
• Determining the best follow-up and home dental care program for your dog.