Got questions about your pet’s dental health?
BoosterPet’s Veterinarian, Dr. Kobi Johnson, answers your top questions regarding pet dental care.
What are the causes of dental disease?
Dental disease is very common for pets and people. Our mouths naturally contain bacteria that play an important role in digestion. As the bacteria works in our mouths, it produces a soft, sticky plaque that can build up and harden over time to form tartar. Tartar can then erode the surface enamel of teeth and irritate gums. Several factors affect this natural process, which for pets include genetics, crowding or malformation of the teeth, and lack of regular oral care such as brushing. In some cases, dental disease also results from trauma associated with chewing.
What are the signs of dental disease?
Early signs of dental disease include breath odor, dark yellow-brown tartar build-up on the surface of teeth (typically starting with the back teeth), and a bright red line along the gumline (gingivitis). Pets may drool excessively or display overt signs of pain or discomfort with dental disease, but in many cases, your pet’s discomfort may not show outwardly.
What are long-term health effects of dental disease?
When oral health is neglected, dental disease – including tartar, inflammation, and the associated bacteria – can contribute to overall health issues for your pet. Left untreated, oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and negatively affect organs such as the kidney, liver, and heart. In severe cases, disease can also spread locally to the jaw and sinus cavities.
What products should I use to care for my pet’s mouth?
There are several options for at-home dental care, including brushing, dental chews and enzymatic water additives. A combination of these pet dental products will work better than any of them on their own.
How do I brush my pet’s teeth?
Brushing your pet’s teeth is a process like your own but using pet-safe brushes and toothpaste. A how-to article and video can be found here. Brushing even once or twice weekly will significantly help reduce tartar build-up; however, making it part of your daily routine is ideal!
At what age should pets begin dental cleanings with the veterinarian?
A veterinarian should examine your pet’s teeth as part of any standard examination (ideally twice yearly) and may recommend a dental cleaning based on several factors, including;
- the level of tartar and inflammation found in the mouth
- the presence of fractured or loose teeth
- the patient’s breed
- dietary and chewing habits
- behavioral changes or indication of oral pain
- blood work results showing markers of inflammation or infection
- bad breath with no other known cause
- the need for a more thorough exam or baseline radiographs
The age and level of severity at which your pet may exhibit these factors will vary, but most patients benefit from a professional dental cleaning around two to four years of age and would ideally receive dentals yearly.
What is the procedure for teeth cleaning with a veterinarian?
During a professional dental cleaning, the medical team will remove all existing plaque and tartar with an ultrasonic scaler followed by polish. We take full-mouth radiographs to determine tooth health below the gumline, and along with a thorough oral exam, will identify any fractured teeth, areas of infection, or parts of the mouth that may be painful, both now and in the future. It may also be determined that your pet could benefit from tooth extractions. Prior to the procedure, we will ask that you fast your pet for 12 hours prior to their drop-off time. During the procedure, we monitor your pet’s anesthesia and keep them comfortable while they are with us. Medication and soft foods may be recommended while your pet’s mouth heals, especially if the dental disease was severe.
Does my pet need to undergo anesthesia for a dental cleaning?
For a safe and effective teeth cleaning, your pet will undergo general anesthesia. This approach greatly reduces stress for your pet and allows us to be as thorough as possible in all aspects of the procedure. We perform pre-anesthetic blood work – as well as a comprehensive examination – the morning of the procedure to ensure that anesthesia is safe for your pet.
What does a professional dental cleaning cost? What are the costs for extractions?
Veterinary providers will vary on the cost. At BoosterPet, the basic dental procedures start at $600 and can range to over $1,000 based on the severity of dental disease and expected extractions. For pets with severe dental disease requiring multiple extractions, extensive oral surgery, or other procedures within the mouth, multiple procedures may be needed for complete resolution.
Can a pet be too old for dental cleanings?
Senior pets often benefit greatly from dental cleanings and the removal of painful or diseased teeth. Proper support, lab work, and monitoring seriously reduces anesthetic risk. However, any treatments recommended by your veterinarian should account for your pet’s age, breed, and overall health condition. Because a professional dental cleaning is safest and most effective under general anesthesia, there may be some pets for whom this procedure is not recommended.
Maintaining a healthy mouth for our pets goes a long way towards improving their comfort and safeguarding their overall health.