By: Dr. Dave Thompson
Recently, an adorable little dog named Chance arrived with Mom to be examined and admitted for a dental cleaning and oral evaluation. This sweet boy is 11 years old and was so cute, timidly wagging his tail, a little greying in the face, and a little nervous, thus he kept an eye on Mom.
He received an injection to calm him and met Kelly C, the Registered Veterinary Technician who would be his nurse for the day, and all was well. His case is an important example of how permanent damage to the teeth and gums occurred because his Mom, a new client, had never been told of the importance of dental care for her dog. We applaud her for getting him right in and having his teeth professionally cleaned, but it is sad that irreversible damage had already occurred.
The following two pictures “tell the story.” In the first picture, note that there is a lot of tartar on his teeth. These are the upper left back teeth which are important chewing teeth. Notice the adjacent gum tissue is rounded which indicates mild swelling and that the gums in that area are a brighter red which indicates inflammation and infection. Despite inflammation, infection and pressure on his gums from the tartar, he displayed no outward symptoms of a problem to his very loving and attentive family. It is thought that dogs don’t indicate oral discomfort due to a survival instinct from hundreds of years ago when only the strongest were likely to get food and survive.
In the second picture, you see the same teeth with the tartar removed. You can now see that each tooth has portions of the tooth roots exposed because the gums have permanently receded, exposing the roots, which means that Chance was uncomfortable. The severity of the damage necessitated removing both of the teeth which, while regrettable, was the only way to make him comfortable, stop the infection, and prevent inevitable problems in the future.
New knowledge in veterinary medicine about the importance of oral health forces us to re-think old beliefs. In the past, we simply did not know that pets need to have their teeth brushed every day and that they need professional dental cleanings to prevent dental problems. There is now proof that oral health of pets affects their comfort, organ and body health, and longevity. Many feel that oral health may trump nutrition in importance for our pets.
This cute little beloved dog now has a new outlook on his life, and is truly comfortable. It was easily achieved…after all, you and I go to the dentist twice a year for dental cleanings and we brush at least every day, and we are all the better for it.
I encourage everyone to attend one of our evening talks on dental care in pets that will begin again in January. Also, you can learn some tips for caring for your pet’s teeth by watching me brush my own dogs’ teeth at home on this video. Always feel free to contact us for help with any issues you may be having with your pet’s oral health.