Dental Care

Dental care is a vital element in maintaining the health of our pets.  Food particles and normal mouth bacteria combine to form plaque on the teeth and at the gum line.  If left untreated, plaque can combine with calcium and other minerals to form tartar, also called calculus.  Plaque and tartar can lead to gingivitis.  Gingivitis is swollen, painful and fragile gum tissue that can be easily damaged and may bleed.  If plaque, tartar, and gingivitis continue to progress in your pets mouth, your pet may develop periodontitis.  Periodontitis occurs when the inflammation and infection spread from the gum line into the deeper tissues such as the tooth pocket and jawbones. This inflammation and infection can form pockets around the tooth or at tooth root leading to painful abscesses and subsequent tooth extractions.  Also, gingivitis and periodontitis can allow bacteria to enter the blood stream and travel to other organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver and lungs and create life-threatening diseases.  Gingivitis and periodontitis are painful conditions for our pets.  Unfortunately, our pets cannot talk to us and do not show pain as we do.  Subsequently, these diseases often go untreated for long periods of time.  Fortunately, your veterinarian can assess your pet’s dental health during a routine physical exam.

Cats have special concerns that make them more prone to dental disease at a younger age. 

Diseases such as Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus can cause gingivitis and periodontitis to develop at an accelerated rate.  Uniquely, Cats develop external root resorption, also called “neck lesion”.  These are deep cavities, or holes, in the tooth at the gum line.  The lesions continue to enlarge until the tooth breaks off at the gum line leaving the root behind.  This very painful condition occurs in up to 50% of our cats.  With proper dental care these lesions can be treated and possibly prevented.  Cats and Dogs can have misaligned teeth due to retained deciduous (baby) teeth, trauma, tumors and genetically based tooth alignment.  Veterinarians can perform many procedures to aid with these conditions. Dogs have behaviors that predispose them to dental disease such as chewing rocks and bones, catching Frisbees and balls, biting at fences and cages. These behaviors can damage the teeth, traumatizing or exposing the root pulp and leading to tooth abscessation and extraction.

Signs and Symptoms of dental disease are:

  • Plaque and Tartar build up
  • Red or swollen gum (gingivitis)
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Gum recession
  • Loose teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Reluctance to eat hard food or chew toys
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Runny nose
  • Swollen face
  • Pawing at mouth

Even if your dog or cat doesn’t have these symptoms, we recommend that you have a veterinarian evaluate your pet’s dental health at least once a year. Bacteria and food debris accumulate around the teeth and, if left unchecked, will lead to deterioration of the soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth. This decay can result in irreversible periodontal disease, tooth loss, and possibly expensive oral surgery.

Dental disease can also affect other organs in the body: Bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream and cause serious infections in the kidneys, liver, lungs, and heart. If these problems aren’t caught and treated quickly enough, they can result in death. A physical exam combined with appropriate laboratory work can determine if infection in the mouth has spread.

Schedule your pet’s dental exam today! We can also show you how to brush your pet’s teeth and recommend foods and treats that will help combat plaque and tartar buildup.

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Our Funkstown veterinarians offer a wide variety of pet care services including spay and neutering, general exams, vaccinations, and much more. Contact Animal Health Clinic of Funkstown today to schedule an appointment at our Funkstown, Maryland veterinary office.

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