We know the importance of brushing our teeth everyday. We floss. We rinse. But let’s admit that we don’t do this for our pets.
Dental disease is a real problem in all of our middle age and older pets. Yet they usually will not tell us of any pain they may have.
Sometimes pain can be manifested as a change in normal patterns: hiding, aggression, not eating, or just not acting the same.
The bad news is that there are probably a lot of pets with hidden dental disease.
The good news is that there is something we can do about it. Regular dental cleanings called prophylaxis dentals help clean the teeth, examine gingiva health, and along with x-rays examine the health of the roots. Proper cleanings remove calculi that can harbor bacteria. Once the bacteria sets up residence in your pet’s mouth they can cause very bad breath and start to multiply, expanding their residence under the gum and along the roots.
This infection can be very painful because the tooth and its roots have nerve endings. This pain can be constant, throbbing, and worse when they are eating.
As the disease progresses the infection can create an abscess in the jaw. An upper tooth root abscess can open up under the eye and discharge pus. A lower tooth root abscess can cause the jaw to break. A proper dental surgery will identify the infected roots and remove them from the jaw. No antibiotic will heal the abscess.
The infected root must be removed. This requires specialized techniques from properly trained veterinarians or registered veterinary technicians. If an infected root remains in the upper or lower jaw then they can still cause pain and infection. The right thing to do for our pets is not to neglect the mouth. Since we can’t brush or floss our pet’s teeth daily, we can slow down the progression of disease by regularly providing specialized dental chews designed to enzymatically remove plaque and tartar. These don’t eliminate the need to have dental prophylaxis but they are better than doing nothing at all. At your next pet’s health exam, talk to your veterinarian about regular dental prophylaxis.