Dental care and disease

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Just as with people where the health benefits of good dental hygiene are well proven, it is important to maintain your cats’ and dogs’ mouths in good condition.  Inflamed gums (gingivitis) and periodontal disease may lead to infection and disease in other internal organs like the heart and kidneys. Periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease of dogs and cats and is a common source of pain in pets.  

Reddened gums or gingivitis is caused by bacterial plaque build up on teeth, Over time the accumulation of plaque and tartar can lead to periodontal disease, this is irreversible and is when the rot sets in. Periodontal disease is where there is damage to the tissue and bone surrounding teeth, the end result is tooth loss and it is painful. Once periodontal disease occurs, pockets form between the gums and the teeth and these pockets create a decent home for bacteria to set up base to infect organs in other parts of the body. If dentistry is performed early enough to remove bacterial plaque and good dental hygiene is implemented, periodontal disease can be prevented.  
When we perform dental checks we look at the degree of tartar accumulation and for the presence of gingivitis, periodontal disease and any broken teeth and then advise you whether or not a dental is required or not and what might help to prevent dental disease in the future.

Regular cleaning is vital, and this is likely to require scaling and polishing under anaesthetic.  Early and regular treatment is much easier and cheaper than major dental surgery for cases that have been left too long.   
If we've advised that your cat or dog needs a 'dental' what happens?           

Given that we are dealing with the sharp end of dogs and cats, almost all dental procedures require a general anaesthetic.

So the first thing we do is assess the suitability of your pet for an anaesthetic.  Your pet receives a full examination, and if necessary, a blood or urine test (which is mandatory for all animals seven years of age or older).

These tests screens for kidney and liver disease, diabetes and anaemia.

Once your pet has been anaesthetised, their mouth is fully examined as 
most animals’ mouths cannot be examined adequately when they are awake, and a dental chart is created. This chart records missing teeth, and broken teeth which should be removed and whether any periodontal disease exists.  Where we are not sure if a tooth requires extraction or not, x-rays will be taken to look at the roots of the teeth.  We'll then Extract any loose, broken or diseased teeth.  Some are so loose they require little effort to be removed whereas others have multiple large roots and require a surgical procedure with the removal of bone with a high speed drill and stitching of the gum once the tooth is gone.  


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Dental Chart

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A broken tooth

Common reasons for teeth needing to extracted are:
Broken Teeth
Advanced periodontal disease
Oral resorption lesions in cats
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and sometimes in dogs
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All our vets will tell you the most common observation by owners after a pet has had a tooth extracted is how much happier they are.

In cases where there has been a  longstanding broken tooth owners will remark that their dog or cat has not been this active or happy for ages.

Most broken teeth are painful and often are accompanied by infection.


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It is important to know however that not all broken teeth need to be removed. Some teeth can be saved with root canal treatments! This is usually a specialist procedure and our vets can discuss if it is appropriate to see a dental specialist.
Tooth brushing
All the tartar and plaque is removed using an ultrasonic scaler, tartar is removed from above and below the gum line. 
Polishing is essential after scaling and helps to slow the accumulation of plaque and tartar.  
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This needs owner dedication and a compliant pet but is the best way to manage your pets teeth – thorough brushing 3 times a week is necessary to make a difference.  If you are happy to do this we are happy to advise you on how to do it.
We recommend regular scaling and polishing – some animals will require a clean up every 6- 12 months to maintain their oral health.
We discuss with you what needs to be done in the future to prevent or slow the progression of periodontal disease.