It is estimated that more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats develop tooth and gum disease by the age of three years. The most common dental condition affecting dogs and cats is the periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an infection and inflammation of the gums and supporting tissues of the teeth. The disease is caused by bacteria present in plaque and calculus (tartar). Periodontal disease begins when plaque and calculus build up on a pet’s teeth, especially below the gumline. Bad breath is often the first noticeable symptom of the disease. Bleeding, inflammation and receding gums, pain and difficulty chewing, loosening and the eventual loss of teeth are characteristic symptoms of the disease.
Periodontal disease is classified into two categories; gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the more mild form of periodontal disease. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum tissue resulting in redness, swelling and discomfort. With effective and timely teeth cleaning, gingivitis can be completely reversed. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis or severe inflammation around the tooth root, which in turn can lead to tooth loss.
Periodontitis is a condition that may be controlled but not totally cured. It is often seen in pets who are over five years old. Most animals with periodontitis have bad breath, tooth mobility, and bleeding gums. Severe inflammation of the gums, gum recession, alveolar bone loss (the bone that supports the tooth is "eaten away"), and pustular discharge are common signs of periodontitis. Bacteria associated with periodontitis can be released into the bloodstream and cause life-threatening problems.
At the Animal Hospital of North Asheville, we feel that your pet’s dental health is extremely important to his or her quality of life. When your pet has healthy teeth, he or she feels great. Each time one of our veterinarians examines your pet, a complete dental check-up is performed. If tartar or dental plaque is found, we have the finest equipment for cleaning your pet’s teeth. Periodontal prevention typically includes ultrasonic scaling, subgingival manual scaling, and polishing.
Veterinary dentistry is very different from the equivalent process in people. For most of us, caring for our teeth and gums has been part of our daily routine for as long as we can remember. Consequently, a person’s visit to the dentist is relatively brief and does not require sedation, tests or anesthesia. In contrast, veterinary dentistry is considerably more involved, time-consuming, and complex. It requires general anesthesia, and consequently a day’s hospitalization as well as the skills of several people, from veterinarians to veterinary technicians and animal attendants.
There are clear indications that oral health status has a profound effect on your pet’s attitude and general health. Periodontal disease may cause bacteria and toxins to enter the bloodstream with potentially deleterious effects on the kidneys, heart, liver and other internal organs. Your pet’s dental examination is therefore not limited to the oral cavity but always includes a general physical examination. Laboratory blood tests, to evaluate other disease concerns, are also commonly performed. Some dogs and cats suffer from chronic oral infection or stomatitis, a poorly understood condition, which is frustratingly difficult to treat.
Keeping your pet’s teeth clean is fundamental for preventing periodontal disease. Your veterinarian may recommend an oral hygiene program that includes in-hospital teeth cleaning followed by an oral home care treatment. The veterinarians and the entire staff at Animal Hospital of North Asheville work very hard to make sure your pet’s teeth are always the best they can be.
Your Pet’s Dental Cleaning
Before any medication is administered, your pet receives a complete "nose-to-tail" medical examination. Dr. Sim meets with you, performs your pet’s examination and discusses any concerns and answers any questions that you might have. If your pet has not had pre-anesthetic blood testing, it is performed at this time. Providing no medical abnormalities are discovered, your pet is sedated for teeth cleaning and dental assessment.
Once your pet is comfortably sedated, the dental technician cleans every tooth thoroughly, above and below the gum line, using the latest Pizeo Ultrasonic Dental Scaler. Following cleaning, each tooth is polished to remove microscopic tartar that can act as a starting point for an accumulation of new tartar. Additionally, a sealant is applied so that your pet’s teeth are more resistant to the formation of new dental tartar. Dr. Sim examines your pet’s mouth for bite abnormalities (malocclusions), gum pockets, chipped or broken teeth, pulpitis, infected roots, cavities, resorptive lesions and oral growths.
If any abnormalities are found other than tartar and mild gingivitis, Dr. Sim calls you while your pet is sedated to discuss the findings, give recommendations, provide exact cost of correction and answer any questions. Since your pet is already sedated, this is the best time to proceed with additional dental work.
Most dental procedures require pre- and post-treatment radiographs. Since we believe that a healthy mouth is fundamental to your pet’s well-being, we have invested in human-quality, cutting-edge, dental equipment. Our state-of-the-art, digital dental x-ray machine takes the guess-work out of diagnosis. Our high-speed drill allows safe removal of deeply rooted teeth and we work with a human dentist who performs root canals when tooth extraction is not desired. Since all our radiographs are digital, we copy your pet’s x-rays to a cd so you can look at them at home on your computer.
In order to limit the amount of x-ray exposure time and reduce the amount of sedation needed, we have true direct digital "film" sensor and view see your pet’s x-rays on our computer terminal within 3 seconds after they are taken. Since our objective is to minimize your pet’s stress, a nurse holds your pet while he or she recovers from sedation. After completing your pet’s dental procedure, we provide you with photos and a chart that describes the procedure and why it was performed.
Keeping Your Pet Safe
In order to remain comfortable during the dental procedure, your pet receives light sedation/anesthesia. A pre-anesthetic narcotic is administered first. This calms your pet and reduces the amount of anesthesia that is required. Throughout the entire dental procedure, we employ strict and elaborate safety precautions to ensure your pet’s safety and well-being.
Each pet undergoing a dental procedure is wrapped in a sanitized blanket and warmed by a Bair-Hugger (human surgery) Warmer. During your pet’s dental procedures, he or she is constantly monitored by a trained veterinary technician as well as with an advanced electronic monitoring device that measures 6 vital parameters (EKG, respiration, pulse oximeter, capnomitry, core body temperature and blood pressure). Additionally, your pet receives IV fluids through an IV catheter in order to maintain proper blood pressure, hydration and as the route for immediate administration of emergency medications if ever needed. Our anesthesia protocol is so safe that most pets are awake within 2 minutes of turning off the anesthesia machine.
For more information on taking care of your pet's teeth, visit our Pet Dental Information page.