Pet Dental Month is not exactly a greeting card holiday, but it does serve to get us in the pet health field to talk about something that we should be talking about everyday of the year - your dog's mouth. If you have ever been to the vet and they didn't look at your pet's mouth, then your vet is not getting the whole picture of your pet's total health. So much of your pet's health relies on what is going on in her mouth - bad oral health often leads to systemic health problems like (cue scary music) heart, liver and kidney problems - that your pet's mouth should be on your vet's mind every visit.
So in honor of Pet Dental Month, I have put together a list of my top 5 favorite pet dental health questions and my answers for them.
5) Should I be brushing my dog's/cat's teeth?
Yup. You should. Imagine what your mouth would feel like (and smell like) if you never brushed your teeth. The tartar build up presses on the gums, causing the gums to recede and become inflamed As the gums continue to recede, the tooth becomes infected and will ultimately have to be extracted.
4) Can I use regular toothpaste?
No. No. No. Never use human toothpaste as it is toxic if swallowed. There are pet toothpastes available at pet stores and at your vet's office that are specially designed for your pet (and they have yummy pet flavors).
3) How come dentals are so expensive?
Sometimes your pet needs a lot of dental work. If you went your entire life without brushing, I'd imagine your dental bill would be much higher. But seriously pet dentals, when done thoroughly, require a lot of time to complete. In our hospital we have a room and a technician dedicated to dental work and still can only do 2-3 procedures in a day.
2) Do we have to extract those teeth?
There are many things that can cause a tooth to need extraction. Besides that fact that infected and broken teeth are painful, bacteria from the mouth can gain access to the tooth pulp and infect the tooth. Eventually, the tooth will die and become a bacterial haven. The bacteria can then leak out through the bottom of the tooth, and infect the bone in that area, eventually causing bone destruction around the root tip. Next, the blood vessels in the area will pick up the bacteria and spread it to other areas of the body, causing other health problems.
1) I take my dog to the groomer and they do non-anesthetic cleanings.
Not technically a question, still I have something to say. Non-anesthetic cleanings are a short term remedy for bad breath. They do very little to address the underlying problems that are causing your pet pain or other symptoms. If you are concerned about the anesthetic aspect of a dental procedure, you should talk to your vet about the risks for your individual pet.
(oh yeah, and non-anesthetic dentals are illegal in CA and most other states if not supervised by a licensed veterinarian.)