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Common dentistry questions

  • What is dental disease in animals and how does it occur?

Periodontal disease refers to inflammation of the gums and bone surrounding a tooth. Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases in dogs and cats. Approximately 75% of dogs and cats have some degree of dental disease by the age of 3. Periodontal disease occurs when food particles and bacteria build up to form plaque, which can harden into calcified tartar in as little as 24-48 hours. For this reason, brushing your pet’s teeth daily is the most effective way to prevent tartar formation. Once plaque is calcified into tartar, it can no longer be brushed off. The tartar must be removed using a scaler by a veterinary professional. The bacteria associated with this plaque and tartar can infiltrate the tooth and jaw bones if left untreated, leading to serious infections, tooth decay, bone loss, and systemic health concerns.

  • What are the most common symptoms of dental disease?

This might come as a surprise, but the most common symptom reported by owners of pets with dental disease is no symptoms at all. In serious cases, these pets may drool or have bad breath, but many pets diagnosed with dental disease appear completely normal to their owners despite the painful disease process occurring.

  • Why is it important to have my pet's teeth cleaned at the vet under anesthesia?

Non-anesthetic dental procedures only allow for superficial cleaning of certain parts of the mouth, making some teeth appear cleaner to the human eye without the health benefit behind it. Cleaning superficial surfaces without cleaning below the gumline and taking radiographs to visualize the tooth can mask disease and may ultimately cost owners more money in the long-run. Anesthesia is necessary to allow for a complete and thorough examination from a doctor, for accurate radiographs to be taken to assess the entire health of the tooth, and to protect the pet’s airway and prevent aspiration. Since the pet is already under anesthesia, the veterinarian can also provide any necessary treatments!

  • How often does my pet need their teeth cleaned professionally?

Each animal is different! The rate of tartar accumulation varies depending on many factors like genetics, diet, and home dental care practices. Some pets need their teeth cleaned yearly while others can go longer in between cleanings. A consistent home dental care routine can significantly reduce the rate of plaque buildup, but it doesn’t replace professional dental treatments. During your pet’s annual wellness exam, our doctors examine your pet’s mouth and make recommendations based on each individual patient.

  • Does giving bones to my dog help their teeth?

The scraping action of chewing on bones can remove some plaque buildup, but it’s important to acknowledge that there’s also a risk of tooth damage. Raw bones are extremely hard, so chewing on them can lead to fractured teeth. In general, if you can’t indent the toy with your fingernail, the toy may be hard enough to risk causing tooth damage.

  • Are some pets more at risk of developing dental diseases than others?

Some individual pets may be genetically predisposed to developing dental disease. We also see breed-specific predispositions. Brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs, pugs, Persian cats, and other flatter-faced furry friends are more likely to suffer from dental issues because their teeth are overcrowded and collect more plaque. Small-breed dogs have high rates of dental disease for the same reason.


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