Just last week I attended a 2 day course dealing exclusively with the subject of veterinary dentistry. While listening to the lecturer I was amazed at the number of dental disorders which were totally unknown when I graduated veterinary school 22 years ago. Veterinary dental technology has been advancing so fast that presently almost any dental procedure that can be performed on humans can now be performed on animals. In the following paragraphs I will discuss a number of the most recent advancements in veterinary dentistry.
Veterinary dentistry has reached a point of sophistication where it is now not surprising to here of dogs and cats having had root canals or orthodontic procedures performed. Many veterinarians are now using the same ultra-high speed air drills and modern dental equipment used in human dentistry.
It may surprise you to learn that veterinarians encounter, daily, more dental disease than any other type of health disorder. It is also a fact that 85% of all dogs and cats over 3 years of age have periodontal disease.
When I graduated veterinary school a dental prophylaxis consisted simply of manually scraping tartar off the crowns of teeth. Now veterinarians recommend that all dogs and cats over 2 years of age receive an annual prophylaxis which consists of an ultrasonic scaling, sub-gingival curetting, root planing, teeth polishing, gum irrigation, and a thorough dental exploratory exam. Frequently even a fluoride treatment will be added as part of the prophylaxis.
As recently as 3 years ago veterinarians would have thought twice about recommending a dental prophylaxis on a 15 year old pet. Now do to the advancements in veterinary gas anesthesia, veterinarians can safely clean the teeth of geriatric pets and have them up and standing within a half hour after completing the prophy. Veterinary dental radiology is also coming into its own with many veterinarians now owning dental x-ray machines in addition to their standard x-ray units. These dental unit allow veterinarians to more precisely identify dental problems.
“Cervical line cavities” are very painful defects which occur in the teeth of cats. These cavities are actually in the root rather than the crown of the tooth and lie hidden, just under the gum line. Because these defects are not easily visible detecting them often requires anesthesia and a careful dental exploratory. These cavities are very prevalent and will occur in 65% of all cats sometime during their life. Because cervical line cavities are so painful they may account for sudden personality changes – i.e. hiding or become mean. Loss of appetite is also common in cats with these sensitive teeth. Discovering these hidden cavities is a very important aspect of feline dentistry and is vital to your cats comfort and well being.
Before closing, the final point that must be emphasized is that a annual dental prophylaxis is more important to the overall general health of your pet than it is for yourself. Because bacterial laden tartar accumulates so much faster in the mouths of pets than people, bacterial toxins are far more likely to be absorbed into the animal’s general circulation and to ultimately produce liver, kidney and heart damage. Consequently, anything that can be done to reduce the tartar accumulation in your pets mouth has the potential of adding quality years to your pets life.