Toronto Veterinarians - Pet Wellness Network

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Contact Willowdale Animal Hospital

Open 24 Hours, Year Round

256 Sheppard Ave. West
Toronto, ON M2N 1N3
(416) 222-5409

By Stephanie Hale, Downtown Animal Hospital

Dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats. Over 68% of all pets over the age of three have some form of periodontal or dental disease. There are a number of signs that can sometimes alert you to dental disease or other mouth problems in your pet. They may show a decreased interest in food or approach the food bowl and then show a reluctance to eat. When eating, s/he may chew with obvious caution and discomfort, drop food from their mouth, or may swallow with difficulty and you may notice a marked unpleasant odor to their breath. This being said, most pets will show few to no signs of dental disease. Because the signs can be invisible or hard to detect, it is up to the pet’s family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and often painful condition.  This is done through regular (we recommend annual) examinations with your veterinarian.

Pet Dental Health, Toronto Ontario Veterinarians

Pet Dental Health, Toronto Ontario Veterinarians

In dogs, the most common type of dental problems is periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Accumulation of tartar and calculus on the teeth contributes to gum recession around the base of the tooth. Infection soon follows and the gums recede, exposing sensitive unprotected tooth surfaces. Untreated infection then spreads into the tooth socket and ultimately the tooth loosens and is lost.

The most common cause of dental disease in cats is due to tartar and calculus accumulation. As in humans, cats accumulate bacterial plaque on the surface of their teeth. If the plaque is not removed quickly, it becomes mineralized to form tartar and calculus. The bacterial products and decaying food stuck to tartar are one potential cause of bad breath.  Tartar is easily identified by its tan or brown color. It normally starts at the gum edge, especially on the back teeth called the premolars and molars. In severe cases, tartar and calculus may cover the entire tooth.

The accumulation of tartar and bacteria on your pet’s teeth surfaces lead to infection and gingivitis or inflammation of the gums. If the disease is caught at an early stage and a thorough veterinary dental scaling and polishing performed, most of the teeth and gums will have a full recovery. However, if gingivitis is allowed to persist untreated, then irreversible periodontal disease will occur.. Infection around the socket causes the formation of pus and a foul odor and may spread deep into the tooth socket creating an abscess, or even more severe problems.  Once periodontal disease starts within cats and dogs, the degenerative changes to the tooth and its support structures cannot be reversed. These changes also make it easier for more plaque and tartar to collect, resulting in further disease.

If the health of your pet’s teeth can not be maintained through brushing and dental diet, the next step is that of a dental cleaning with your veterinarian.    The goal of dental scaling and polishing is to remove the tartar and invisible plaque. Your veterinarian will perform pre-anesthetic blood tests to ensure that kidney and liver function are satisfactory for anesthesia. Sometimes antibiotic treatment is instituted before a full dental prophylaxis is carried out.  Your veterinarian will discuss the specific pre-dental recommendations for your pet.

Tooth scaling is  performed using both hand scalers and ultrasonic cleaning equipment to remove tartar both above and below the gum line. The tartar beneath the gum line causes the most significant gum recession. The teeth are polished in order to help prevent subsequent plaque build-up. It may be necessary to carry out other procedures such as extractions at the same time. Special applications such as fluoride, antibiotic preparations and cleaning compounds may be indicated to decrease tooth sensitivity, strengthen enamel and reduce plaque accumulation and bacterial infection.

These procedures will be fully discussed both before your pet’s dental cleaning and when you bring your pet in for the procedure. Since it can be difficult to predict the extent of dental disease in advance of the procedure, it is imperative that your veterinarian is able to reach you during the procedure to discuss any additional treatment that may be necessary.   Please call one of our Pet Wellness Hospitals to book your complimentary assessment today!

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