Does your dog or cat have bad breath?
Has your family pet crossed the line from “doggy” breath to “potty” breath?
The best RULE of THUMB is: If there is bad breath, there is disease, and it needs to be addressed in some way.
The reason for doing dental cleanings early is to treat problems when they are reversible. Losing teeth because they fall out or we have to extract them, means the problem should have been addressed earlier.
It may be due to dentition issues or a sign of other health problems. The earlier you address the problem the better it is for your pocketbook and your pet.
The main goal of routine dental health care it TO KEEP ALL THE TEETH for as long as possible.
Dogs and cats are like people. They have different susceptibilities to dental disease. Genetics, breed size, diet, lifestyle, water etc all affect the dental health of any animal. Feeding dry dog or cat food does not prevent dental disease but feeding good quality food does increase the time before dental care is required and can also increase the time between dental cleaning visits.
The most common question I get is:
Do I really need to clean them now? They don’t look that bad do they doctor… and the teeth don’t seem to bother him or her.
By the time someone says “IT DOESN’T LOOK TOO BAD”, it already is.
Stage 1: In the early REVERSABLE stages there is likely a small amount of plaque build up. The gums overlying the tooth are inflamed. Cost is about the same as a dental prophy for people PLUS the cost of anesthesia.
Stage 2 thru 4: In all of these stages there is PROGRESSIVE BONE LOSS.
This is when the real problems start and treatment goals are to control bone loss, not to reverse it. It is not uncommon in stage 2 to 3 to need some teeth extracted. The smaller ones are usually the first to be diseased enough to remove. So if you see a small tooth on your floor at home: this means things are progressing.
Once your pet reaches stage 3 and 4: the cost goes up significantly because dental x-rays, extractions, antibiotics, pain medications, pre-surgical blood testing and intra-operative fluids become more common. At stage 4 the procedure length greatly increases and this is why additional costs are incurred.
Most of us are concerned about anesthesia and especially in older animals. The best thing you can do for your pet is to avoid lengthy procedures by getting the problem of bad breath under control early.
Some FAQ’s about dentistry
Why does my pet have bad breath?
- Plague and Tartar build up
- FELV/FIV (feline leukemia and immunodeficiency viruses)
- Kidney Issues
- Liver disease
- Immune Mediated Gingivitis
- Poor Quality Food
Is it expensive?
If cleaning is done early and yearly, then the cost is equivalent to human dental prophy PLUS the cost of anesthesia.
Once the patient needs extractions or has significant bone loss, then the procedure starts to fall into the category of pediatric dentistry where there is anesthesia involved.
When compared to this same level of intensity in people, the costs are significantly less in the veterinary hospital.
Most people find their own dental care to be expensive if they don’t have insurance to cover it. The same is true for our pets.
The teeth don’t seem to bother him or her, should I still be concerned with potty breath?
We have a low pain tolerance in term of oral pain. Cold and heat sensitivity, infection, headaches from teeth: all of these symptoms make us check with our dentist.
Animals have a high pain tolerance and are “genetically coded” to eat no matter what. Significant oral problems are painful, even if you don’t see it.
The signs of pain in animals include non specific signs like sleeping more, loss of interest in toys and other things we think of as AGING.
Should my dog have retained baby teeth removed?
Young dogs getting new teeth can run into a few problems. Usually the new adult tooth pushes out the baby tooth. Whenever there is more than one tooth in a socket, the baby tooth should be removed.
Leaving that tooth contributes to possible infection of the adult tooth, can cause displacement of the adult tooth which can affect proper alignment, and increase the rate of infection and plaque build up in the mouth.
Why does it require anesthesia?
Can’t I just scrape it off the tartar? My groomer scales my dog’s teeth, so it should be ok.
If you call your dentist and say you are going to just remove the hunks of plaque at home, they will tell you that this is ineffective.
What is important is what is going on below the gum line….this is the iceberg theory. What you see above the gum line is “only the tip of the iceberg”. It is the stuff below the gum line that causes the bone loss and causes the disease to progress. It is equivalent to the titanic…what sunk the ship was not the part they saw. So, if anyone offers to just scrape the teeth and get the chunks off…they are really doing your pet a disservice.
All dental cleanings require cleaning of the pockets and space below the gum line.
Do I need annual dentals for my pet?
Some breeds of dogs are very resistant to plaque and tartar. Others are not.
If you have a toy or smaller breed dog (less than 20 lbs), you can almost always count on the first dental cleaning at 2 years of age and ideally annually after that if you want to keep the teeth and minimize cost and anesthesia time.
Mid-size 20-50 lbs often required dental cleaning around age 4 or 5. The larger breed dogs may not require dental cleaning until after middle age.
You can do the “sniff test”. If you can smell the breath and it smells a little like moldy cheese, it is time.
Are antibiotics required beforehand?
This depends on the individual patient and the veterinarian needs to make that decision on a case by case basis.