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Common Questions About Your Pet’s Dental Health, Answered

January 31, 2020
Common Questions About Your Pet’s Dental Health, Answered

As a pet owner, you have probably heard our recommendations regarding dental care and teeth cleaning, but may be hesitant to take the steps necessary to improve your pet’s dental health. You may be concerned about your pets response, what our team will find when we get a good look inside your pet’s mouth, or the cost involved with dental care.

We tackle your most common questions to help you understand that dental-health care is not extra care that only some pets need—it is basic health care that every pet should receive. 


#1: Aren’t doggy breath and tartar accumulation normal for pets?Dog Dental Care

Bad breath and tartar accumulation are never normal—they are signs that your pet has well-established dental disease that should be treated before becoming worse. Oral bacteria deposit sticky plaque on your pet’s teeth that, if not removed by brushing, quickly mineralizes into cement-like tartar. Bacteria also burrow beneath your pet’s gumline and cause periodontal disease, which leads to tooth-root infections, abscesses, tooth loosening, and bone deterioration.


#2: So, my pet’s teeth are dirty—does it really matter?

You may have become accustomed to avoiding your cat’s bad breath or your dog’s sloppy kisses and think this is part of having a pet. However, the consequences of dental disease can reach far beyond your pet’s mouth, including:

  • Organ damage — Bacteria hiding below plaque and tartar layers can enter your pet’s bloodstream, and be deposited on her heart valves, or in her kidneys or liver, causing life-threatening infection and inflammation. 
  • Immunosuppression — Constant gingival inflammation can tax your pet’s immune system, and she will more likely develop other health conditions.
  • Disease complications — Dental Inflammation can complicate other common diseases, such as diabetes, making them more difficult to treat.
  • Pain — Dental disease causes significant pain, although pets often hide it well and continue to eat, drink, and play as if nothing is wrong.


#3: Won’t my pet’s teeth cleanings be expensive?

Your pet’s regular teeth cleanings will add to your pet-care budget, but the costs associated with tooth-root abscesses, emergency extractions, and broken teeth can be significantly higher. If bacteria from your pet’s diseased mouth travel to her organs, treatment for chronic diseases and organ damage can also add up quickly. Think of dental care as prophylactic, like vaccines or parasite preventives—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 


#4: Are professional teeth cleanings really necessary for my pet?

The only way we can remove plaque that has mineralized to tartar is with specialized instruments during a dental cleaning. A prophylactic cleaning is part of a comprehensive oral-health assessment and treatment, or COHAT, that is similar to the process your dentist uses when your teeth are cleaned. Each procedure includes:

  • Dental X-rays — X-rays allow us to visualize each complete tooth and the surrounding bone.
  • Scaling — Tartar is removed from the tooth surface, above and below the gumline.
  • Polishing — Microscopic crevices left by the dental scaler are smoothed away to prevent bacteria from attaching. 
  • Probing — We ensure that none of your pet’s teeth have deep pockets that indicate periodontal disease.
  • Rinsing — An antibacterial rinse leaves your pet’s mouth clean and fresh.

If we identify any diseased teeth that your pet would be more comfortable without, we will extract them. 


#5: Why does my pet need dental X-rays? 

Dental Xray for dogs

More than half of each tooth is located below your pet’s gumline, and can only be evaluated with X-rays. Although tartar accumulation on your pet’s teeth is unsightly, root damage that occurs below the gumline is the real source of significant problems caused by dental disease. X-rays allow us to diagnose serious problems, such as tooth fractures, root deterioration, and bone loss.


#6: Can you clean my pet’s teeth without anesthesia?

Anesthesia-free dental cleaning is scary for your pet, and ineffective. The most well-behaved pets will not hold still for us to perform a complete dental cleaning, and the instruments, poking, and probing can cause anxiety and fear, which we take great measures to prevent. Also, removing tartar below your pet’s gumline, which is the most important part of a dental cleaning, cannot be performed on an awake pet. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings do not address the most critical components of dental disease, and are not recommended. Our skilled team members will stay by your pet’s side throughout her anesthesia, monitoring her vital signs to ensure her safety.


#7: You really expect me to brush my dog’s—or cat’s—teeth?

An effective dental-care regimen consists of regular dental evaluations and professional cleanings, as well as at-home preventive care. Imagine never brushing your teeth, and expecting one professional cleaning a year to maintain your dental health. Teethbrushing removes plaque before it mineralizes to tartar, stopping dental-disease progression in its earliest phase. Pet-friendly toothbrushes and flavored toothpastes are available that make daily brushing a fun experience for you and your pet. Check out our detailed instructions on teaching your pet to enjoy teethbrushing sessions.


#8: Are there other ways I can prevent tartar accumulation?

If your pet won’t let you near her mouth, or you want to add another level of preventive care to her brushing routine, numerous products that you can use at home to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation are available. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval guarantees that a dental-care product has been proven to slow plaque and tartar accumulation, so choose products with this label to supplement your at-home dental health-care plan. 

Are you ready to tackle your pet’s nasty mouth? Call us to schedule a dental assessment, and we can discuss the best plan to make her mouth sparkling clean.