February is National Pet Dental Health Month.  We talk about teeth a lot in veterinary medicine.  The reason is that dental health is important.

Dental health is importantDental health can affect your pet’s quality of life, other internal organs and if neglected can cause your pet to live with constant discomfort or even pain.

Let’s Talk Grades

I don’t mean the kind you get in school.  Dental grades range from one to four.  Grading is a system that we use to assign a value of periodontal disease present in a pet’s mouth.  The tricky part about pets and their mouths is how little they will let us see without anesthesia.  In other words, most pets do not tolerate the veterinarian opening their mouths and looking inside very well but this is part of an oral exam.  This is why performing regular professional dental cleanings while the pet is under anesthesia is so important.

How Important Is It Really?

Dental Health is important stuff!  To put it in perspective think about it this way.  If you never brushed your teeth, your teeth and gums would start to become diseased and cause you discomfort and pain even before they started falling out.  Without proper dental care, bacteria beneath the gum line can build up and go to the heart, liver and kidneys.  So when we say it is important, we are not exaggerating.

Our Dental Cleanings Are Comprehensive

We offer complete dental cleanings which includes the following:

  • General anesthesia monitored by a nurse. We monitor all vital parameters to assess how your pet’s body is responding to the anesthesia.
  • We check each individual tooth with periodontal probing. Our trained veterinary nurses probe to look for any pockets or loose teeth that your pet may have.
  • Scaling removes tartar from the teeth. Bacteria produces the tartar that lives on teeth.  The bacteria also causes inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis.  We scale by hand as well as with an ultrasonic scaler to get every little piece of tartar.
  • Dental Radiographs is the best way to evaluate the entire tooth.  The crown of the tooth is above the gum line while the roots sit below, embedded in bone.  We examine the health of the tooth above and below the gum line.
  • Polishing the teeth is the next step of a complete cleaning. This is an important step since the scaling can roughen the tooth’s surface which would cause accelerated build up of plaque and tartar without polishing to smooth the surface.
  • After polishing comes the fluoride treatment. We use fluoride to decrease the formation of plaque.
  • Dental charting is the final step. It is important to record all the dental findings into the patient’s medical records.  This allows us to follow the patient’s progress over the years.

Dental Cleanings Can Be Surprising!

Why? There is almost always more going on beneath the gum line than what we can see with the naked eye.  With digital dental x-rays we can see how the roots of the tooth look as well as the bone.  This step is so important and allows us to take our dentistry to the next level.

These photos show how difficult it is to see what is actually going on without dental x-rays.

Unhealthy teeth

These teeth are broken and diseased. Teeth become mobile with bone loss. Most likely this pet will lose at least 3 teeth (red arrows). The most shocking part of this x-ray is that the roots from a broken tooth are not visible above the gum line (see orange arrow). Without dental x-rays, you would never know this pet has this potentially painful problem.


Give your pets the gift of healthy teeth!

These teeth are well seated in strong, healthy bone.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Practicing regular oral and dental health is part of an overall preventative wellness program that will help maintain your pet’s optimum health for years to come.  Dental cleanings are an essential part of your pet’s health and well-being.  Again, imagine brushing your teeth once every few years.  So many people are resistant to getting their pet’s teeth cleaned before they “look bad”, but the truth is we should be cleaning them before we see tartar and buildup.

The reason for this is simple.  If you get your pet’s teeth cleaned once every year starting before you can see a lot of plaque and tartar we can preserve the health of the gums and bone which help maintain the health of the tooth and will prevent tooth loss.  Don’t wait to have your pet’s teeth cleaned until they have a lot of build up.  This is a misleading way to look at oral health care and will end up costing you more in the long run. Practicing regular dental care will prevent you from paying for costly extractions all at once and hopefully keep your pet from experiencing oral discomfort and or pain and losing many teeth.  To learn more about pet dental health and dental health month, please visit The Veterinary Oral Health CouncilSchedule your pet’s oral health evaluation today by calling 210-695-4455.