According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats, by age 3, show some signs of oral disease. In fact, the third most common area for cancer is the oral cavity. Unfortunately, the early warning signs that your pet is suffering with a dental or oral problem, are missed by most pet owners. When your pet acts hungry but refuses to eat or becomes picky, drops food around the bowl, refuses to play with its toys, paws at its mouth after eating, has bad breath and drools or has a facial swelling, you need to act quickly. Often the disease involves the deeper underlying tooth and bone structure and is not readily visible. The most effective treatment therefore involves more than just a superficial cleaning.
Dental cleanings that involve scraping of teeth without the aid of anesthesia pose serious risks to your pet. Not only can the sharp instruments cause extensive damage to the animal that is struggling to get free but also the tartar that is broken from the teeth can be sucked into the animal’s wind pipe and cause them to choke. The soft gums are often cut and the more serious disease below the gum line is left behind to cause more problems. This is especially true of small dogs with gum and bone recession whose jaws have been weakened by disease. The jaw bone subsequently breaks due to inappropriate handling and restraint. Timely recognition and diagnosis of the problem therefore, by a specialist trained in veterinary dentistry and oral surgery, is critical to prevent further disease and return your special friend to good health.
The dental specialist does a thorough oral examination that includes checking your pet for jaw growth problems, missing or broken teeth, bleeding gums and unusual swellings which occur in more than half the dogs and cats over 3 years of age. The specialist often needs to evaluate the animal with radiographs under anesthesia to appropriately treat the problem before it progresses.
Once the problem is determined, the most effective treatment is then performed. Broken teeth can be saved with root canal therapy. Loose teeth from gum and bone recession can be treated with deep root therapy and bone augmentation to prevent jaw fractures. Missing teeth can be impacted and need to be surgically extracted just like a person’s impacted molars. Localized tumors are thoroughly removed and biopsied to determine if healthy margins are achieved.
Just as it would be unreasonable to expect that our own family practitioners have the advanced training and skills of a specialist, the same holds true in veterinary medicine. The specialists at the Animal Dental Centers of Towson and Annapolis are therefore an extension of the services offered by your general veterinarians. Oral infections damage the heart, liver and kidneys therefore our focus is prevention and treatment of oral disease before it affects your pet’s overall health and shortens their life expectancy.