Dental exams for pets are important to their overall health and well-being, so it is important to maintain a dental care routine. Today, our Stanwood vets will explain why you should bring your pet in for a dental exam.
There are many good reasons to bring your pet in for a dental exam including preventing pain and disease in its mouth. Here, our Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Stanwood vets will explain a few of the best reasons to bring your pet in for a dental exam.
Prevent Dental Disease:
Dental disease is the most prevalent clinical condition to affect pet dogs and cats. If plaque and tartar formation are not stopped by regular prevention, pets are likely to have at least the beginning stages of dental disease by three years of age.
Dental disease begins with the accumulation of plaque—a sticky substance made by oral bacteria. If plaque is not removed from the tooth surface by regular brushing or similar means, it quickly mineralizes into tartar, which accumulates as a yellow or brown substance on the crown of the tooth.
Plaque and tartar also develop below the gum line, causing inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and of the periodontal ligament that holds the tooth into the bony socket (periodontitis). The dental disease will eventually cause tooth instability and loss.
A dental examination will allow our team to assess dental diseases that may have already started in your pet’s mouth. Since most of the disease process occurs below the gum line, dental X-rays may be needed to evaluate the tooth root, periodontal structures, and surrounding bone.
Prevent Dental Pain:
Your pet can be very good at hiding dental pain or discomfort. Without a dental exam, it can be difficult to know if your pet is suffering from any oral diseases but there are many signs and symptoms that you can look out for. Here is a list of symptoms to look out for:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Red, inflamed gums
- Visible tartar accumulation on the teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Pawing at the mouth
- Decreased food intake
- Loose, broken, or missing teeth
- Behavior changes (irritability)
During a dental exam, your veterinarian can detect the early stages of dental disease and intervene before your pet’s teeth become painful and periodontitis progresses to the point of tooth loss. If your pet’s mouth is already painful, your veterinarian can pinpoint the cause of the pain and prescribe the best course of treatment.
If you have noticed your pet's breath smells terrible and no matter how many cleaning toys/chews or how many times you brush its teeth at home, that may be a sign your pet needs a dental cleaning by a professional.
Every pet should have a professional cleaning at least once a year as part of their basic health care. During your pet’s dental exam, your veterinarian will let you know if it’s time for a cleaning.
During the exam, you can expect your vet to perform many things on your pet's mouth including:
- Dental X-rays will be taken and will be performed to look for disease below the gum line.
- A dental probe is used to check for pockets between the tooth root and gums, which is a sign of periodontitis.
- Tartar is removed from the tooth surface, both above and below the gum line, using ultrasonic and manual scalers.
- The teeth are polished to reduce the build-up of bacteria and debris after the cleaning.
- A fluoride treatment is often applied to strengthen enamel
Prevent Other Oral Issues:
Dental disease is not the only reason your pet needs an exam, there are many other reasons why your pet could have dental pain or discomfort that needs to be treated including:
- Misalignment of the upper and lower teeth
- Extra or missing teeth
- Palate defects, such as the cleft palate
- Jaw fractures
- Oral tumors
Oral tumors in dogs and cats are often cancerous. If found early during a routine exam, a tumor can be removed before cancer has a chance to spread to other parts of the body.
Prevent Further Health Issues:
Although being able to snuggle your pet without doggy breath is nice, dental health is much more important than fresh breath and white teeth. In addition to halitosis and tooth decay, dental disease can lead to problems beyond the mouth.
The bacteria hiding within tartar and below the gums can enter the bloodstream and travel to important organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and liver, which can result in dangerous systemic disease and organ failure.