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Preventing & Treating Canine Periodontal Disease

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Learn about canine periodontal disease, routine dental maintenance, and how you can help keep you pet's teeth squeaky clean!

I was unaware that dogs have dental problems. Is it common?
Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. Over 68% of all dogs over the age of three are estimated to have some form of periodontal or dental disease. Few pets show signs of dental disease. It is up to the pet's family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and often painful condition.

Are dental problems the same in pets and people?
No. In humans, the most common problem is tooth decay, which, due to the loss of calcium from the enamel, results in painful, infected caries (also called cavities). In dogs, tooth decay represents less than 10% of all dental problems. The most common dental problems seen in dogs are caused by periodontal disease.

What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Accumulation of tartar and calculus on the teeth causes gum recession around the base of the tooth. Infection soon follows and the gums recede further, exposing sensitive unprotected tooth root surfaces and the bony tooth sockets Left untreated, the infection spreads deep into the tooth socket, destroying the bone. Ultimately, the tooth loosens and falls out.

Can tartar be prevented?
Plaque becomes mineralized in some dogs much quicker than in others. The best way to prevent tartar build-up is regular home care, particularly teeth brushing using toothpaste that is specifically designed to be swallowed. Special dog chew toys and treats may help reduce or delay tartar build-up. Some pet foods are formulated as dental diets that mechanically assist in plaque removal.

Will feeding dry food remove tartar?
Food manufacturers have recently developed new dental diets that can help reduce the formation of plaque and tartar in your pet. Once tartar has formed, it will be necessary to remove it by professional scaling and polishing under general anesthesia.

What is involved with a routine dental cleaning?
A routine dental cleaning involves a thorough dental examination, followed by a dental scaling and polishing to remove the tartar and invisible plaque from all of the tooth surfaces. Your veterinarian will perform pre-anesthetic blood tests to ensure that kidney and liver function are satisfactory for anesthesia. Sometimes antibiotic treatment is started before the periodontal therapy is performed. Your veterinarian will discuss the specific pre-dental recommendations for your pet. Once your dog is anesthetized, your veterinarian will thoroughly examine the mouth, noting the alignment of the teeth and the extent of tartar accumulation both above and below the gum-line. If periodontal disease is severe, it may not be possible to save badly affected teeth and may require extraction. Next, tooth scaling will be performed using both traditional hand scalers and ultrasonic cleaning equipment to remove all traces of tartar, both above and below the gum line. The tartar below the gum line causes the most significant gum recession, and it is imperative that it is removed thoroughly. After scaling, the teeth are polished to remove microscopic scratches to prevent subsequent plaque build-up. Special applications such as fluoride, antibiotic preparations and cleaning compounds may be indicated to decrease tooth sensitivity, strengthen enamel, treat bacterial infection and reduce future plaque accumulation.The procedures that your pet may require will be discussed with you before your pet's dental cleaning. Since it can be difficult to predict the extent of dental disease in advance of the procedure, it is imperative that your veterinarian is able to reach you during the procedure to discuss any additional treatment that may be necessary.

How can I prevent tartar accumulation after the procedure?
Plaque and tartar begin forming in as little as six hours after your pet's dental cleaning. A home dental care program including regular tooth brushing is a must for all pets. Your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions on how to brush or rinse your pet's teeth.

Please call the office at 303.469.7387 to discuss the dental options and cost with one of our trained staff!

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