Dogs and cats have teeth and gums just as we do and many of the same problems. Dogs rarely get cavities from tooth decay the way we do, but they very frequently chip and even fracture their teeth. Once the enamel that protects the tooth is gone it becomes sensitive to hot and cold, and open to infection. Often the fracture will open the root canal and that is acutely painful. I’m always amazed when I see these injuries that these pets seem to have no good way of communicating that pain.
They also have tartar, which is a build up, first of a bacterial biofilm, like a scum on the teeth, then eventually that hardens from the minerals in the saliva. This is the grayish-brown build-up on the teeth that cannot be brushed away. It is often the source of the odor and the periodontal disease that costs so many dogs their teeth. It causes chronic infections that affect other organs and shortens life. All pets need to have annual health examinations by their veterinarian, and have their teeth and gums checked, at least once a year until middle age, then twice a year.
A good dental cleaning includes dental x-rays just like a human dental cleaning. There are often early abscesses, fractured roots and deep periodontal pockets with infection and loss of bone around the roots. These can only be evaluated by a good set of dental x-rays. A dental cleaning is not just popping off some of the tartar. It includes cleaning and then polishing the teeth to smooth the enamel surface to slow the build up of tartar. It also includes periodontal probing and evaluation of pockets, and treating them appropriately. Teeth that cannot be salvaged will need to be extracted. All this requires a general anesthesia and if there are extractions, local nerve blocks to prevent sensitization and post-operative pain.
The doctors at Ajo Veterinary Clinic have many years of experience and special training in pet dental care.