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Dental Care at Cats & Critters

Overview of Pet Dental Health

rochester ny cat dentist We have all been well educated from the time we were children about dental health. Twice daily brushing and semiannual cleanings are normal for all of us. If we become lax we develop tartar accumulation, gingivitis, periodontal disease or cavities.

What about pets? The reality is that our pets need dental care too. By the time most pets reach the age of two years dental plaque (that stuff we try to brush off our teeth every day) has begun to mineralize and adhere to their teeth as tartar. At the same time plaque and tartar are building up under the gum line. This plaque contains millions (literally) of bacteria, which if left in place, will infect the gums causing gingivitis. Unchecked infection under the gum line will cause an incurable disease called periodontitis. Periodontal disease is a painful, progressive loss of infected bone, which with dedicated professional care can be controlled but never cured. The good news is that periodontal disease is almost always preventable if regular dental care is started early enough in life.

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Home Dental Care

rochester feline dental services It is estimated that 60% of all cats will have dental disease by the time they are two years of age and 85% are affected by three years of age. Unless treated early, gingivitis and periodontal disease will progress to the point of tooth loss, and a lot of pain along the way. Periodontal disease is virtually 100% preventable if regular dental cleanings are done by a veterinarian and owners care for their pet’s teeth at home with the same commitment as for their own teeth. Young cats can often be trained to accept tooth brushing at home if done early and properly. If we force our animals (i.e. call in several neighbors to sit on the animal while we scrub the teeth) we will be unsuccessful. On the other hand slow, progressive training usually results in cooperation. Start for a couple of weeks with allowing your pet to lick a little pet toothpaste (which comes in a variety of tasty flavors) from your finger. Don’t use human toothpaste; its fluoride can cause toxicity if swallowed daily. After your pet is used to the taste, start wiping a little toothpaste on a tooth or two for a few days, and then progressively more teeth. When a pet is accepting the finger “brushing” you can then advance to a soft finger brush, and rub all outer surfaces of the teeth daily. Slow, happy training is the key to success. Daily brushing of the teeth reduces plaque formation, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. This saves your pet from pain and disease development and decreases the costs of future.

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Anesthesia / Monitoring

cat dentist, rochester ny Dental procedures such as teeth cleaning, sealants, fillings, and extractions are done exactly the same way for pets as for humans. The only big difference is that animals must be anesthetized to achieve their needed cooperation. When a pet comes to the hospital a brief exam is done and a sedative is administered. Once sleepy enough, an endotracheal tube is placed in the airway to allow the administration of gas anesthesia and to protect the lungs from aspiration (inhaling of dental tartar and fluid from the dental cleaning — this does not happen in awake animals/people who can swallow normally). An intravenous catheter is placed for fluid administration, which helps to support normal blood pressure. Anesthetic monitoring is critically important; every animal is monitored continuously and great care is taken to ensure anesthetic safety and to minimize anesthetic side effects.

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Dental Cleanings

cat dental cleanings, rochester A dental cleaning is done for out pets exactly the same way it is done for us. The only exception is that our animal friends must be placed under general anesthesia. No awake animal would let us do a thorough cleaning. First the dental tartar, also known as calculus, is removed from the tooth surface. This is done by a combination of hand scaling and the use of an ultrasonic scaler, used to literally vibrate tartar off of the teeth. Next, plaque and tartar must be removed from beneath the gum tissue. After all the teeth are cleaned the enamel surface is polished and smoothes with a prophy-paste that helps to slow down future plaque build up.

Removing the plaque is really the important part of the cleaning since plaque and tartar contain millions of bacteria. If not removed from under the gum line, bacteria will cause infection of the gums or gingivitis that can progress to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a painful condition that ultimately leads to tooth loss. Regular, thorough cleanings are a big part of preventing gingivitis and periodontal disease.

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Dental Radiographs (X-rays)

rochester ny cat pet dentist Veterinary hospitals providing advanced dental care now have dental x-ray machines. If a problem is discovered on a post-cleaning examination of the mouth, dental x-rays are necessary to help diagnose signs of tooth and bone disease and determine the necessary treatment.

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Tooth Repair

rochester ny cat dental exams The most common form of tooth repair in human dentistry is filling cavities. Carious decay, producing cavities, is almost nonexistent in cats.

Odontoclastic resorptive lesions in cat teeth look like cavities. Despite extensive research the cause for these deep painful holes remains unknown. The only effective treatment is extraction. Unfortunately, this is a common concern in cats and rarely is only one tooth affected.

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A tooth that is damaged beyond repair, or has inadequate bone support because of periodontal disease, should be extracted. It is better to have no tooth (or teeth) than to have a chronically painful tooth (or teeth). Depending on the tooth involved and its overall health, it may be extracted by elevation or surgical extraction. Elevation is where a small single rooted or very loose tooth is progressively loosened by a dental instrument and removed. Surgical extraction is involved when tooth roots are large, numerous, or long; the extraction of human wisdom teeth, for example, is usually a surgical procedure.

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Pain Management

Dental cleanings are very easy and painless, however, procedures for treating periodontal disease can be unpleasant. Pain control for potentially painful procedures, like extractions, is achieved by prevention rather than treatment. Nerve blocks (local anesthetic injections) are routinely employed to prevent the pain from ever happening. Local anesthetic solutions can be placed in the tooth pocket (splash blocks) to minimize discomfort. Injectable medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and even morphine are commonly used. If it is anticipated that an animal may have some discomfort at home various analgesic medications can be prescribed.

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