February is pet dental health month. The care of your pet’s teeth and mouth can affect other areas of its health, including the loss of teeth, as well as heart, liver and kidney damage. A pet with dental problems may not want to eat, may have bad breath, may exhibit pain in the mouth area, may have excessive or abnormal drooling or bleeding and may have swelling on the face. Some pets may not exhibit any signs at all, yet have severe dental disease. Dental care is one of many reasons an annual exam is very important for your pet’s health.
Anesthesia is necessary to perform dental procedures. Pets do not understand the dental procedure is for their health. Anesthesia means less stress and pain for your pet. Your pet must be very still for readable radiographic images. It allows a much better cleaning while preventing injury to itself or the person performing the dental procedure or damaging the equipment used.
Veterinary dentistry is performed by a veterinarian and a licensed veterinary technician. Once you pet is under general anesthesia, the veterinarian will perform a more complete oral exam, looking for any abnormalities such as lumps, retained baby teeth, mobile or fractured teeth, etc. This is followed by dental radiographs which allow the evaluation of the jaw and the tooth roots below the gumline. The radiographs and dental cleaning (scaling) and polishing are normally done by the licensed technician. If the exam and radiographs indicate the need, extractions will be performed by the veterinarian.
As with humans, some pets require dental care more often than others. Daily brushing with a toothpaste approved for use in pets will help reduce the need for dental cleaning. Dental products such as OraVet chews reduce the bacteria that forms plaque which becomes the tartar seen on your pet’s teeth. Other products are also available that may help, but always ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.