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Pet Dental Care Eric M. Cryan D.V.M.
hile I am not a Buddhist, I often tell my clients that if I did believe in reincarnation I would want to come back as one of their pets. The amount of care, compassion, and dedication my clients show to their pets is unmatched as they treat their furkids as part of the family. Yet even with this care and love displayed, one of the most common medical problems I still face in my veterinary practice is dental disease. It is estimated by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) that by the age of three, the vast majority of dogs and cats have evidence of periodontal disease that will generally worsen with age without intervention. Dental disease can be both a sign of, and a cause of disease elsewhere in the body. When I visit the dentist for my bi-annual cleanings, the dental hygienist who scolds me for not flossing enough reminds me to think of flossing your heart when you are flossing your teeth. Her point is that dental disease can lead to infection elsewhere in the body including the heart, kidneys, bladder, and liver. Thus, it is of vital importance for people and their pets to prioritize their dental health. Dental care is generally divided into two categories, home care and professional dental cleanings. Home care can make a significant difference in the progression of dental disease. Dental disease is often a function of diet, mouth conformation, a pet’s immune system, and preventative measures taken or lack thereof. The gold standard for pets as it is with people is daily teeth brushing. Full disclosure: I do not brush my pets teeth with consistency and I would feel like a hypocrite if I chastised my clients who do not manage daily teeth brushings on their pets either. There are, however, other products that can be used that benefit oral health. Additives to water that often contain chlorhexiderm will disinfect bacteria in the mouth when they drink. There
are diets and chews that also help remove plaque through mechanical and chemical means. Additionally, there are probiotics which contribute to oral hygiene. It is vital to discuss home care with your veterinarian so that he or she can help you tailor an individual home dental care plan suitable and realistic for you and your pet’s lifestyle. Even with the best home care, professional dental cleanings are generally necessary during the life of a pet. The major difference between human and veterinary dental care is the requirement of general anesthesia for pets While there are groomers and other individuals who will offer “dental cleanings” without general anesthesia, the AVMA recognizes the medical necessity of cleaning below the gum line to combat periodontal disease which is not possible in an awake pet. Consequently, the AVMA does not recommend or encourage dental cleanings without the use of general anesthesia. As with all anesthetic procedures, ask questions about who will be performing the procedure, what type of monitoring