The Importance of Good Dental HygieneWhen it comes to maintaining your pet’s good health and providing your pet with extra years of quality living, proper dental care is second only to proper nutrition. In fact, a yearly dental exam, cleaning and polishing is far more important for dogs or cats than it is for humans. You may ask why this is true, so, I will explain.
Consider that dogs and cats age about 7 times as fast as humans, therefore, when we recommend that your pet have his or her teeth cleaned yearly, that equates to recommending the teeth be cleaned once every 7 years in cat or dog time. If a veterinarian were to clean your pet’s teeth at the same frequency recommended for humans (once every 6 months) he would need to clean your animal’s teeth monthly. Now, not only is a monthly teeth cleaning for your pet not practical from an economic standpoint, it is also not practical from an anesthetic standpoint. Consequently, I recommend an annual to semi-annual dental cleaning (prophylaxis). This is not because it provides the best dental hygiene but because I believe it to be a reasonable compromise between good medicine and what is safe and practical.
Because a one-year interval between teeth cleanings is equivalent to every 7 years in dog and cat time, tartar builds up much faster in pets and is commonly very thick by the time the next cleaning is due. This heavy tartar in a pet’s mouth acts as a great breeding ground for odor producing bacteria, which feed off the tartar and produce toxins as their waste products. These toxins are absorbed from the mouth into the blood stream. The pet’s kidneys and liver are responsible for removing these toxins from the blood, but in doing so, the kidney and liver are progressively damage. Because we clean pets teeth the equivalent of once every 7 years, “home dental care” is extremely important in minimizing tartar build-up between cleanings.
Also keep in mind that skipping your pet’s prophylaxis for even 1 year is the equivalent of a person skipping for 7. Imagine what your dentist would say about your teeth and gums if you waited 7 years between cleanings. Annual teeth cleanings combined with conscientious home dental care will significantly reduce oral bacterial toxin production which is so detrimental to the over-all health of your pet’s liver, heart, and kidneys.
Cats and dogs, whose teeth do not receive the proper care, frequently develop periodontitis, loose teeth, sore bleeding gums and even cavities. It is a fact that 85% of dogs and cats over 3 years of age have periodontal disease. Cats frequently develop hidden cavities under the gum line. These cavities are extremely sensitive and can cause the animal much pain, even to the point where he or she could become mean. A proper dental exam and prophylaxis includes detecting these hidden cavities, broken teeth, and oral tumors and recommending the appropriate treatment.
Of course dogs and cats are not about to hold their mouth open and remain still while a veterinarian cleans the plaque and tartar from under the gums so an anesthetic is necessary to allow the doctor to do a through job of examining and cleaning the oral cavity and to avoid hurting the animal. The safest and most commonly anesthetic used for dental cleanings is a gas anesthetic called “Aerrane”. Please understand that unless there are teeth to be extracted, Aerrane can be used at a much lighter level than what what would be needed for a surgical procedure. Gone are the days when a dog or cat would be sent home still groggy after teeth cleaning. With Aerrane it is not uncommon for anesthetized patients to be on their feet within 15 minutes of being taken off the gas anesthetic machine. At my clinic we feel so confident when using Aerrane that we rarely hesitate to clean and polish the teeth of some of our oldest patients. In spite of this confidence, we always strongly recommend a pre-anesthetic blood screen in order to detect hidden health problems that could affect the outcome of the procedure
So when I enthusiastically promote proper dental care, I am doing so not because I believe your pet needs a nice white smile or sweet smelling breath, but because I know the importance of oral hygiene as it relates to the overall health and longevity of your pet. I know how important your relationship with your pet is to you and I want to do every thing I can to keep that relationship alive for as long as possible.