Dental Care for Dogs
Dental care is a vital part of any animal’s overall health. It should be implemented with daily oral care at home and regular professional dental care by your veterinarian. The majority of dogs should have all of their permanent (adult) teeth erupted by 6 months of age. The goal of effective dental care is to maintain your pet’s teeth throughout their lifetime, rather than losing their teeth to chronic infection, inflammatory disease, or fractures. It is ideal to treat dental disease before any severe or widespread pain has occurred, and before teeth that are too diseased or damaged need to be extracted. A dental examination by your veterinarian can help to determine if periodontal disease is developing below the gum line or if there is other damage to your pet’s teeth.
Dental recommendations will be tailored to your individual pet’s needs, but will include a plan for daily oral home care. Small breed dogs are particularly prone to periodontal infection. They are recommended to have their first professional dental check-up and cleaning by the time they are two years old, and annually thereafter. Good dental care is important not only for prolonging the healthiness of your pet’s teeth, but also for improving their quality of life dramatically along the way.
What types of canine dental care services are offered at your hospital?
We offer comprehensive dental assessments and cleaning. It includes a full scale and polish, a thorough dental exam by the veterinarian and evaluation of full mouth radiographs (x-rays) to assess the health of the tooth roots. The results of the examination and x-rays are paired together to develop a recommended treatment plan if required beyond scaling and polishing. Dr. Alyssa Eslinger has a special interest in dentistry and offers additional dental services, including pediatric orthodontics, periodontal therapy, and minor tooth fracture repair. Dr. Eslinger does accept referrals from local veterinarians who do not provide the same breadth of dental services, but some dental procedures, such as root canals, are referred to a local dental specialist.
Our dental services are performed with a light dose of anesthesia to ensure that we can complete the cleaning and examination safely and effectively. Non-anesthetic dentistry is not offered at our clinic, as it is not possible to perform a proper cleaning for an awake dog or cat. Their dental appointment is the same as yours. If you can’t convince your pet to quietly sit upright in a chair for 60 – 90 minutes with their mouth held wide open the entire time, then how can we achieve that? We won’t be able to get the job done, and we’ll get our fingers and x-ray sensor chewed on! Therefore, it is our ethical duty to say: buyer beware when it comes to non-veterinary, non-anesthetic dental services. They are not professionals and are not trained to diagnose or treat dental disease.
Prior to scheduling a dental assessment and cleaning under anesthesia, you will be asked to bring your pet in for a full physical examination. It allows the veterinarian to evaluate their overall health (including their dental health), and identify any potential anesthetic risks. Senior pets or pets with other diseases may require pre-anesthetic bloodwork or additional diagnostic testing to further evaluate any concerns identified during the physical examination.
Once the physical examination and any recommended pre-anesthetic testing are performed, a thorough estimate will be provided, so that you are aware of the financial commitment in proceeding with your pet’s dental care. Veterinary dentistry is a bit different than human dentistry, in that we typically perform the examination and treatment during the same procedure. Your dentist would diagnose the problem at the time of the exam, and would generally send you away with an estimate to book the recommended treatment another day. Given that we have your pet under anesthesia already, it generally makes the most sense to proceed with treatment as soon as the examination and x-rays are completed. The possible treatment options are thoroughly discussed during the pre-dentistry appointment and are laid out in the detailed assessment that is provided ahead of time. A low end and a high end will be present on the estimate to account for the fact that we cannot determine an accurate treatment plan until the examination and x-rays are completed. You can discuss this in more detail with your veterinarian, so you are comfortable before committing to the procedure.
Dentistry is an out-patient procedure, meaning that your pet will go home with you the same day. A morning drop-off time is arranged, and you will receive a call once your pet’s procedure is completed. They will typically be monitored in the clinic for a minimum of three hours after recovering from anesthesia. You will receive a recommended pick up time once the procedure is completed. We will also arrange a time that works for you to meet with one of our registered veterinary technologists for discharge.
How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?
In an ideal world, you would brush your dog’s teeth every day — plaque forms within three hours of a meal, and tartar forms within 48 hours of plaque forming. So unless you are brushing at LEAST every other day, tartar is being allowed to form. Training your dog to accept toothbrushing from a young age can allow it to become a positive part of human-animal bonding. They can learn to enjoy the process if it is approached with a positive training strategy. Nothing beats toothbrushing when it comes to home oral care, as it is the other method that is capable of mechanically removing biofilm from all the tooth surfaces. Products that require chewing to work will miss non-chewing teeth, and products that don’t have a mechanical action (i.e. water additives) can’t remove biofilm. With that said, toothbrushing paired with other strategies, such as dental chews and water additives, can all work together to do an even better job, as long as regular brushing is the mainstay of the home care plan. View a summary of the products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
It is important to note that we do not recommend chewing on bones or antlers, as they are too dense/hard and are known to cause tooth fractures. Even Nylabones have been documented to cause tooth fractures in smaller dogs. Edible dental chews are preferred.
Why is oral and dental health important?
Periodontal disease affects the majority of cats and dogs by 3 years of age. Severe periodontal infections not only damage your pet’s quality of life, but can also lead to damage to their jaw bone. It can even cause bacteria to spread through their bloodstream and attach to their heart valves and kidneys. Even mild periodontal disease can cause bad breath and damage your bond with your beloved pet. Routine and proactive home & professional dental care can help maintain a great human-animal bond and can prevent serious infections from interfering with your pet’s quality of life or causing other health problems.
Most dogs with dental disease do not show obvious signs other than bad breath. It is rare for a dog to show any overt signs of dental pain unless that pain is severe and/or widespread. Dogs with many infected teeth may not exhibit obvious pain to their owners. It can sometimes take something as severe as a tooth root abscess or a broken jaw before an animal will stop eating. People who have had dental problems understand that even though your mouth hurts, you find a way to function and eat despite that pain. It is more common for owners to see a response in their pet’s attitude after severe dental disease is treated, rather than seeing convincing signs of discomfort prior to treatment.