Dr. Laura Tancredi, DVM
The health of your pet’s teeth is an indispensable component of his or her overall health. Regularly checking your pet’s teeth will allow you to determine the state of his or her oral health. Here at the World of Animals at Elkins Park, we provide our patients with the most modern applications of technology to prevent periodontal disease early on.
Periodontal disease (PD)
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the gum line and the surrounding bone around the teeth. The effects of this infection cause the gums to pull away from the bases of the teeth, allowing for the bacteria to spread further into the gum line. Periodontal disease is a persistent and progressive infection which advances in cycles. In severe cases, periodontal inflammation leads to bone loss, and possibly even tooth loss, causing severe damage to the health of your pet’s mouth.
An early stage of periodontal disease is known as gingivitis (gum swelling and redness). This type of infection often is evident before the permanent teeth have even erupted. Bad breath (halitosis) is typically an indicator of an abnormal bacterial problem in the mouth. As time goes by, the plaque (bacteria) builds up in layers and also mineralizes (hardens) with calcium from the oral cavity. The remnants of a hard, brownish, unsightly material (calculus) accumulate on the teeth and gum line, serving to provide more surface area for plaque to adhere to.
Preventing gingivitis and more advanced stages of periodontal disease begins with keeping plaque from accumulating on and around the area of the teeth. The most effective means of removing plaque is by mechanical brushing. If your dog or cat has not received any previous treatments of dental cleaning, they will most likely have some degree of gingivitis. Our veterinarians highly encourage you to perform daily brushing on your pet’s teeth to prevent this bacteria infection. Although chew toys and other oral devices permit for some type of prevention of the accumulation of plaque, they are not as efficient as a mechanical toothbrush is, and should not be considered a substitute for regular brushing.
The Dental Cleaning Procedure
For this procedure, your pet must be put under general anesthesia, as a means to properly clean their teeth. Therefore we need to start with running pre-anesthetic bloodwork to check kidney and liver values. The kidney and liver are what is responsible for filtering the anesthesia out of the system. The cleaning and polishing are performed by one of our veterinary technicians, under the supervision of one of Our Doctors. In more advanced cases of a disease, gum surgery or even extractions of a few or many teeth may be recommended to help control or prevent the spread of disease to adjacent teeth.
Treatments with medications of oral solutions, gels, and antibiotics may be required. Once the condition is contained, home care becomes the main treatment to prevent a recurrence. There are dental diets available to our patients. Typically, dry foods may provide some cleansing benefit particularly in comparison to moist, sticky foods. There are special dental diets available that effectively reduce plaque and calculus accumulation and gingival inflammation. They are effective, convenient, provide good nutrition, and most pets like them. There are a variety of products to help combat plaque and tartar build-up, but brushing is best. Ask one of our team for a sample of pet toothpaste (do NOT use human toothpaste), and for tips on how to brush your pet’s teeth.