Q: Is it true that dogs & cats need to have their teeth cleaned?
A: Absolutely! Preventative dental care is one of the most neglected pet health needs. Yet it is just as important for your pet as it is for you. While cavities do occur in both dogs and cats, periodontal (gum) disease is the most common and serious problem.
Periodontal disease is caused by build-up of plaque and calculus below the gum line. Plaque, a sticky, colorless, bacteria-laden film forms continuously on teeth. Gums recede as calculus builds up, forming bacteria filled pockets. Left untreated, this will lead to tooth loss.
Bacteria infect gum tissue, the roots of teeth, and erode surrounding bone that secures teeth. If left untreated, eventually the teeth will fall out. Bacteria are carried throughout the body by a large network of blood vessels near gums and teeth causing infection in other organs. An accumulation of bacteria can weaken your pet’s resistance to illness.
Many pets suffer in silence with dental disease. Others show acute pain while eating. Some pets act depressed. Bad breath and drooling are frequent signs of dental disease. Teeth are normally white and smooth. Healthy gums are pink, smooth and adhere tightly to teeth. Diseased gums may be thick, red and/or bleed easily. If any warning sign is present, your pet needs veterinary attention.
Treatment for most pets requires having your veterinarian scale (remove) calculus at and beneath the gum line. Polishing creates smooth tooth surfaces to reduce bacteria growth. Your pet’s dental cleaning will begin with a physical examination. This is important to evaluate your pet’s general health. After the physical exam, your pet is given an intravenous sedative; and then gas anesthesia is administered for a safe and painless sleep during the dental procedure. If your pet is 5 years of age or older, pre-anesthetic blood work is required to help detect potentially hidden health problems.