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Dog Dental Care - Everything You Need To Know About Your Dog's Dental Health

How does dental health impact the overall health of my dog?

That's a great question and I'm going to draw some parallels between humans and dogs because we both have sets of teeth. With humans, the recommendations are to brush your teeth twice a day because it brushes plaque, which is a bacterial biofilm, off the surface of your teeth. If you don't, the plaque turns into tartar, which is a harder substance, and if you don't take care of that, the tartar turns into something called calculus, which is calcified tartar. This is very hard and has to be removed professionally. So I'm going to preface that. With dogs, dental care is super important because their mouth is what they eat with. Any kind of bacteria or pain or anything that's going on with their mouth is going to affect the rest of them.

If they have a lot of bacteria in their mouth and a lot of dental disease, they may not eat as much because it hurts or that bacteria may circulate in their bloodstream to the dog's organs, like their hearts, liver, and kidneys. I've seen older dogs come in with really severe periodontal disease or dental disease, and when we send off lab work, their liver and kidney values are struggling. It's not uncommon to see those values improve somewhat if dental disease was a contributing factor and they get dental work done.

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws At Fulshear

Why is early detection and diagnosis of dental disease so important?

It's way cheaper to fix before it's a big deal. There's a lot of work that goes into dental care and performing anesthetic dental procedures on our pets, so it is much easier on your wallet and better for the pet to try to prevent all the things that can happen. Veterinary dentists recommend brushing your dog or cat's teeth twice a day. I don't know about you, but we live on planet earth, and my animals are not going to tolerate that. But if you could hit it a few times a week, that's going to do something. Make sure that you're doing Doxirobe oral care or Oravet oral care. There are chews and other things that we can talk to you about when you have an appointment and discuss what recommendations we have to help keep your dog's teeth happy and healthy longer. Early intervention is key. If we sit on it and wait, that bacteria eats away at the tooth root and the gum tissue. Once we get past a certain point, those teeth are now infected and diseased and have to be removed. That's where we start talking about spending. It's a very big financial investment to get those infected teeth done and repair them if it's needed.

How often should my dog's teeth be checked?

Dog's teeth should be checked at their annual veterinary exam. Veterinarians can make recommendations based on what they see during the exam. It's much cheaper to get their teeth cleaned before there's an issue because then we don't have to talk about tooth extractions or oral surgery. Also, dog owners can monitor their dog's dental health by paying attention to their breath. Bad breath or changes in the color or condition of the teeth can be a sign of dental disease. If your dog does have significant dental disease and they are big kissers, you may not want them licking your face because that does put you at risk for infection, as it's transferring the bacteria in the dog's mouth onto your skin.

What is a professional dental cleaning like for a dog?

It depends on the grade. There are four grades of dental care, 1, 2, 3, 4, with one being the least and four having the most work that needs to get done. Generally, if the dog is older than four years of age, we require preoperative lab work. If they're younger than four years of age, you don't have to do it but we strongly recommend it because anytime they go under anesthesia, you want to make sure their organs can handle it.

Most of our patients are dropped off at 8:00 AM and they have all their procedures in the morning. They go under anesthesia and we do dental x-rays where we take full mouth x-rays to look at the disease underneath the gum line. That helps us determine if any teeth need to be removed. It helps us determine if any teeth can be saved. So if there's a lot of disease and plaque on the gum line, but the roots are still healthy and we can get the bacteria cleaned off and do an antibiotic filling, we're much more likely to save the teeth. If they need to have extractions, we do full dental nerve blocks. We use lidocaine to completely numb their mouth, which helps with anesthesia and postoperative pain control. You do really want to be conscious of pain control. If you've had dental work done yourself, you understand how painful this can be. So pain control is a big thing that we really push here at Four Paws at Fulshear.

I believe very strongly in pain control. After the teeth are extracted and the sockets are flushed, we will then pack the sockets with antibiotics or bone graft if any teeth need to be removed and the infection's eaten away at the jawbone. We then suture those sockets closed. They may need to get cold laser therapy, which we recommend for any type of dental procedure. Cold laser is a modality that we use before the dog wakes up. It decreases pain and inflammation and speeds healing. The studies on it are quite profound. We recommend it for all kinds of conditions, but any surgery cases should get cold laser therapy. It is optional, but it is something that does help with pain control. After the cold laser's performed, the anesthesia is turned off, the pet is on a hundred percent of oxygen with their breathing tube for five minutes, and then we recover them. They then get all bundled up and we keep them nice and warm. Then we call the owner when they're awake, remove their IV catheter because they are on IV fluids and full monitoring while they're under anesthesia, and then they go home that afternoon. That's how a dental procedure usually goes. We keep in close contact with all of our clients. If you do speak to any people that currently go to Four Paws at Fulshear to have dental care done, they will tell you we are very responsive. We do a lot of text message updates and phone calls if necessary because it is scary having your pet go under anesthesia.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (281) 801-1444, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

Dog Dental - FAQs

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws At Fulshear

What is a veterinarian looking for during a dog dental exam?

During a dog dental exam, a veterinarian will check for various signs of oral health. First, we check the color and hydration of the gums. Pink, hydrated gums are a good sign, while dark red, purple, sticky or dry gums may indicate problems such as dehydration or gingivitis. We look for obvious signs of disease, like fractured or missing teeth or oral masses. We also look for tartar or calcified tartar on the teeth. That's what we have to scale and crack off the tooth, and that's a big reason why we require anesthesia with our dentals. It's not a comfortable procedure. When they're asleep, they don't feel it, which is great. The degree of tartar build-up helps us grade the dental health from one to four, where one is just minor build-up and four indicates severe disease necessitating tooth extraction.

Why does a dog need dental radiographs?

Dental radiographs are crucial and should be a standard of care. They allow us to examine the unseen parts of a tooth, particularly the root and the tissue underneath the gum line. The radiographs help us assess the health of the root, pulp cavity, and periodontal ligament, which holds the tooth in place. With these radiographs, we can detect tooth root abscesses, infections, and bone damage. They also help us make decisions about whether a tooth needs to be removed or if it can be saved through medical treatments.

Are issues addressed during a dog's initial oral exam or are follow-up appointments necessary?

Whether issues are addressed during the initial oral exam depends on what we find. If there are serious problems such as a fractured tooth causing a tooth root abscess, we would start treatments like anti-inflammatories and antibiotics immediately, and schedule a dental procedure. However, for most other findings, treatments would be scheduled for a later date and a dental surgery appointment would be set.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (281) 801-1444, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

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