Did you know that there are vets who have specialised in animal dentistry? We work just like human dentists but we have to anaesthetize our patients and we do not do ‘cosmetic’ dentistry. We feel it is unethical to anaesthetize an animal purely to make its teeth look pretty, so aesthetics are not our priority. The return of proper function and comfort for the animal are all that matter. So when your pet breaks a tooth, has tooth decay, red gums or bad breath, go to your vet! They may need to refer you to a vet who has specialized in veterinary dentistry (see British Veterinary Dental Association website) as most vets in General Practice are unaware of either the need or the techniques available for saving teeth.
The commonest problem for our pets is periodontal disease, as it is in people. It can cause smelly breath (halitosis), drooling and difficulty in eating. More teeth are lost as a result of periodontal disease than for any other reason. Tragically, most of these teeth are healthy and this disease is completely preventable!
Treatment And Prevention Of Periodontal Disease
When food and debris are allowed to accumulate around the teeth, the gums become sore and inflamed. Bacteria multiply and attack the supporting structures of the teeth (periodontium) so they become loose and fall out. To treat this properly, your pet will need to have a general anaesthetic to have any loose teeth extracted and the rest cleaned and polished both above and below the gum line. All this can be prevented by brushing the teeth every day at least once a day, just as we do for our own teeth.
Easy, Natural Prevention Of Periodontal Disease
The best way of preventing periodontal disease is to feed a more natural, raw food diet of raw meat, raw meaty bones, raw green vegetables and Pet Plus. Raw food has less of a tendency to stick to the teeth and so is less likely to accumulate in the mouth. Mixing Pet Plus with raw food or with processed pet food also supplies the micronutrients needed for the saliva and the immune system to work efficiently enough to combat the bacteria that enter the mouth. Just think about what your pet licks, chews and eats! There are plenty of bacteria there!
So you can choose between veterinary treatment, prevention by daily tooth brushing or natural feeding.
Diets containing too much sugar and carbohydrate can result in the decay of tooth structure, just as it does in people. If you see dark areas on the teeth, usually on the flat surfaces of the back teeth, or if your pet doesn’t seem quite right, have a look for these painful cavities. We can drill out the decayed enamel and dentine and put in composite fillings, just like dentists do, but we need to fully anaesthetise your pet. As with people, caries is preventable by tooth brushing and a natural diet.
Resorption And Feline Odontoplastic Resorptive Lesions
Cats frequently suffer from cavities on the sides of their teeth usually along the edge of the gum, known as FORLs. The gum grows into the hole which gives a bit of protection from the pain as these cavities are excruciatingly painful. Affected teeth usually have to be extracted as fillings are rarely successful. I think that eating a raw food diet with raw meaty bones can help to prevent this deterioration by the physical oral stimulation of chewing and the provision of unadulterated natural nutrients.
When you next throw a toy for your dog to run and fetch, be careful to make sure it does not stop right next to anything really hard, like a rock or a curb stone. If your dog bites the stone at the same time as the toy, there might be a very loud bang as the tooth breaks. Whatever the cause, breaking a tooth is extremely painful, even though your pet might not show it. The nerves and blood vessels in the soft tissue inside the tooth (pulp) are usually exposed, so keep the mouth clean and go to your vet as soon as possible. Ask them to refer you to a veterinary dentist as an emergency. The tooth can usually be saved with a vital pulpotomy as long as it is treated within 24 hours. At the very least, ask for pain relief and antibiotics immediately while the referral is sorted. The quickest way is to arrange the referral yourself.
Teeth that have been broken for more than a day are more difficult to treat and usually need root canal treatment, just like humans. Left untreated, the pulp dies, degenerates and is likely to become infected which may result in an extremely painful tooth root abscess.
Saving the major teeth, like the canines, is a much better option than extracting them as the roots are twice as long as the crowns. The canines hold the dog's tongue in the mouth and hold the lips out, preventing them from catching on the other teeth.
Remember, pets often don’t show obvious signs of pain. Just because they are still eating does not mean everything is fine. It’s a matter of survival! Have a good look inside your pet’s mouth. If you are worried about what you see, go to your vet and ask for a referral. You can find your nearest vet who has specialised in dentistry online at Vet Index and at the BVDA. Either make the appointment yourself or ask your vet to refer you.