With over 80% of dogs, and 70% of cats showing signs of oral disease by 3 years old, regular dental treatments are part of an overall wellness plan. Dental disease does not just cause bad breath and affect the mouth but can also cause disease of the heart, lungs and kidneys. In addition, dental disease can cause chronic pain in your pet that can make them less sociable and affect their quality of life.
You play an important role in preventing periodontal disease in your pet. Performing home care, which includes brushing, dental chews and dental diets can play a key role in the prevention of plaque and tartar accumulation on your pet’s teeth. Just like you brush your teeth daily, your pet can benefit from having their teeth brushed regularly to help prevent periodontal disease. However, we understand some pets are not accepting of home care and brushing is not possible. This makes regular dental treatments more important to ensure good oral health in your pet and catch any oral disease while it is still reversible.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is the most common condition seen in our pets. It is caused by an accumulation of bacteria, food and saliva that forms a film on the teeth called plaque. This soft plaque material becomes mineralized within 24-48 hours to form tartar (calculus). The calculus becomes a scaffold for more plaque accumulation. It is this plaque substance that actually causes swelling and redness (inflammation) of the gums (gingiva). With severe gingivitis, the gums can even bleed. If left unchecked, this chronic inflammation of the gums leads to bone loss around the teeth and ultimately tooth loss. As you might expect, this process can be painful for your pet and accounts for mouth odor (halitosis). A routine dental treatment or Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT) may be recommended to treat oral disease in your pet. Our ultimate goal at Tassajara Veterinary Clinic is to prevent periodontal disease with routine treatments but intervention with a COHAT is often necessary to treat and stop the progression of existing periodontal disease.
Signs of Periodontal Disease:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Difficulty chewing or eating, some pets swallow food whole
- Gums swollen or red and may bleed
- Receded gums
- Loose or missing teeth
- Fractured teeth
- More commonly than dogs, cats will have appetite changes or stop eating with oral pain
- Dogs rarely stop eating due to periodontal disease
Tooth Resorptive Lesion:
Both dogs and cats can develop tooth resorption, but cats are more prone to this condition. Within the middle of the tooth is a pulp cavity that contains blood vessels and the nerve. A boney substance called dentin, which is covered and protected by enamel, surrounds this cavity. In a process known as tooth resorption, formerly referred to as feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL) or “neck lesions”, the enamel erodes and exposes the dentin. Over time, the dentin is destroyed and the entire crown of the tooth can be eroded. This process left unchecked can also affect the root of the tooth. It is estimated that 20 to 60 percent of all cats and nearly 75 percent of all cats five years and older will have tooth resorption.
The cause of tooth resorption is not completely understood despite many theories that have been suggested. We do know that these lesions are very painful, and the only effective treatment is extraction of the affected tooth. Dental x-rays are crucial to determine the extent of the tooth and root resorption and aids to determine the extraction technique. If the root is intact, then the entire tooth with root must be extracted to prevent pain and potential root infection. If the root is resorbed, then a process called a coronectomy can be performed. This is a procedure where the crown of the tooth is removed but the remaining root is left behind to continue the process of resorbing.
What is a COHAT ? (Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment)
Prevention and treatment of periodontal disease starts with an awake oral exam to evaluate if dental treatment is necessary. We determine the need for treatment based on the amount of plaque and tartar buildup as well as the level of gingivitis.
If it is determined that your pet needs a professional COHAT under anesthesia, a thorough oral exam, full dental x-rays and charting of the teeth to note any mobile teeth, gingival pockets or fractured teeth will be recorded. The findings from the oral exam, charting and x-rays help us determine any diseased teeth that need to be extracted. And of course, the teeth are ultrasonically cleaned and polished!
Many clients are apprehensive about putting their pet under anesthesia and avoid pursuing dental treatment due to the fear of a poor outcome. We understand this concern and perform a pre-anesthetic risk assessment in each pet. This includes a full physical exam and may include pre-anesthetic blood tests to assess organ function, protein levels and blood sugar; a complete blood count to assess for anemia and a urinalysis to make sure the kidneys are working properly. In some cases, we may also recommend further tests like a chest x-ray or echocardiogram.
At Tassajara Veterinary Clinic we use the safest anesthesia available and all pets are supported with IV fluids during the procedure. Oxygenation levels, EKG and blood pressure are carefully monitored by registered veterinary technicians (RVT) and overseen by your veterinarian. We have warming devices to keep your pet toasty warm. Additionally, we use pain management during the procedure which may include a nerve block to prevent pain when extractions are necessary. This also helps make for a smoother recovery.
Preparation for the Procedure:
- Please drop off your pet between 7:00-8:00 am the morning of the procedure
- Do not feed your pet after 12 am the night before the procedure. Water can be offered until the morning of the procedure.
- Let us know any medications your pet is currently receiving and whether you gave them the morning of the procedure.
- We provide written estimate for each procedure that give ranges for treatment. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but it is impossible to fully assess the stage of disease prior to the COHAT evaluation.