A healthy mouth is a healthy pet.
Periodontal (all the important things that attach teeth to the mouth) disease is estimated to affect 60% of all dogs and 70% of all cats. This makes it the common disease of our pet populations. These chronic infections cause a constant showering of bacteria to the down system organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys), harming the body's ability to function.
It's about more than just pretty teeth! The bacteria cause bone-destroying infections under the gum line, where we can't see. Bone infections are painful. Pets will still eat and chew, and gnaw on toys in the face of this deep bone-ache, but after we address the infection, almost all owners notice an improvement in general energy and well-being.
The Dental COHAT
When your pet is brought to Crossroads Animal Hospital for a "dental", a Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment is Performed. The steps include:
1. Do they have to be anesthetized?
Yes. It is impossible to clean teeth with sharp instruments on an awake animal and get under the gumline where the infections live. Also, if they didn't have a breathing tube in to protect their airway, they would breathe in the water being sprayed in their mouths and develop pneumonia.
2. What about anesthesia free dentistry?
DON'T DO IT. We don't care how pretty or ugly the crown of the teeth look. We care about what's happening at the root, where the tooth attaches to the bone. This is where pain and infection occur. The only way to assess the root health is with x-rays.
3. Wouldn't it be safer to just sedate?
No, we need to protect the airway with a breathing tube to prevent aspiration pneumonia.
4. My pet still eats and chews on bones. Is he/she really painful?
YES! Dogs and cats will still continue normal behaviors as their teeth rot. But once we address the painful condition, energy and joyfulness increase. Often what people assume is an old pet "slowing down" is really just the result of chronic tooth pain.
5. Can we just give antibiotics to address the infection?
No. The antibiotics will make the surface of the infection look better, but it won't touch the necrotic (dead) tissue at the root that is the source of the pain. Antibiotics make us feel better but they are insufficient to address our pet's discomfort.