Dental Health Frequently Asked Questions
Click on your question below for answers to many common questions about pet dental health.
On our Dental A,H&T FAQs page, you will find more answers to detailed questions about our professional dental services.
Our Consumer Guide to Dental Care arms with you with questions to ask before your pet undergoes professional dental care.
How common is dental disease?
Dental disease is the most common serious ailment in cats and dogs! 85% of adult dogs and cats have periodontal disease. The incidence and severity of dental disease increases as pets age. In fact, the vast majority of cats and dogs 3 years of age or older have dental disease and are in need of professional dental care.
Is dental disease painful?
Dental disease is very painful. Study after study has shown that cats and dogs experience pain like we do, but actively hide their pain from observers. This instinct to hide their pain protected them from predators in their original wild state, but now it makes it harder for us to help our pets because we sometimes have to look for very subtle signs of pain. Surely, if we could know what pain they experience, we would be much more likely to aggressively treat it. Protecting our pets from the agony of decaying and infected teeth and gums is one of the most important things we can do to keep our pets healthy, comfortable and happy.
Can dental health affect my pet's behavior?
Yes!! Many owners report dramatic improvements in their pet's behavior, playfulness and reduced crankiness after dental treatment. These behavior improvements are most likely the result of the relief from chronic severe pain.
This is all new to me! Why haven't I heard about pet dental care before?
Medicine evolves!! These medical advances are why pets (and people!) now live longer lives than ever before. Just a few years ago, most veterinarians often waited until dental disease was very advanced (and irreversible) before strongly recommending professional dental care. Today we know that we must prevent problems from becoming severe instead of allowing them to worsen for years before helping. With our new understanding of the importance of dental health, many veterinarians are rapidly acquiring the knowledge and equipment needed to properly prevent and treat dental disease.
Recent advances in veterinary dentistry allow us to prevent, treat and cure dental disease much more effectively than we could only a few years ago. Just a few years ago, quality veterinary dentistry was practiced by just a handful of specialists. General practice veterinarians were limited by our training and tools to very basic and incomplete dentistry so most pets simply did without. Today, many practices follow the AAHA Dental Care guidelines which are updated every few years.
By investing in top quality tools (very similar to those in your own dentist's office) and committing ourselves to practicing the best possible primary care dentistry, we have become able to better diagnose and treat many common dental problems. High speed drills, dental x-ray, excellent new dental antibiotics and other medications and tools have added great dental power to our practice. Veterinarians are rapidly learning how to use these new technologies to benefit our patients. By taking our dentistry practice to "the next level", we can now add quality and quantity to our patient's lives through better dentistry.
Now that veterinarians know how to provide good dental care, why aren't more pets getting it?
We know it's not because owners don't care. Many studies have shown that Americans generally consider our pets members of our families and we want to do what's best for them. And, I know many very loving owners whose pets haven't gotten the dental care they need over the years. I know that many pet owners would be providing better dental care if they understood how effective it can be in keeping their pets healthy, extending their lives and making them so much more comfortable. So, it's not a lack of caring. Why then? We think the reason most pets aren't getting the dental care they need boils down to us vets not doing a good enough job providing the information to owners and committing to providing high quality dental care to patients.
At what age should dental care start?
Dental care should begin as soon as you bring your new pet home with daily tooth brushing with pet toothpaste. The earlier you begin, the more quickly your pet will come to accept or even look forward to his dental care.
What do I need to do at home?
Good home care is essential to maintaining or improving dental health. Daily (or at least 3 times per week) tooth brushing is the gold standard of preventive home dental care. There are many good products available to aid your at home care program. Oravet Dental Chews, CET Chews and Hills Prescription Diet Tartar Control t/d cat and dog foods are all good products that are recognized as effective and safe by the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) that can supplement regular brushing or can help if brushing is not a good option for you.
Our nurses will gladly show you how to take care of your pet's teeth at home to keep them their best between professional cleanings. We will work with you to find an effective, simple at home dental care routine that works for you and your pet. Because we realize that home dental care is essential to maintaining dental health, we provide a no-charge follow up nurse home care consultation visit 14 days after the dental visit so that the nurse can review home care with you at that time and we will provide whatever additional support you need. Educating you about proper home care is our duty. Ask any time for more information or coaching.
Is there anything we should do for our puppy's (or kitten's) teeth?
The best thing you can do for your pet's dental health is to begin daily tooth brushing when you first bring your pet home. The earlier you accustom your pet to the tooth brush, the easier it will be!
When pets are surgically altered at 4-6 months of age, we recommend strengthening their pretty new adult teeth with a fluoride treatment for continuing protection.
At what age does my pet need start annual Dental Assessment, Hygiene & Treatment visits?
Annual dental care visits are generally needed starting at the age of two for large dogs and starting at the age of one for small dogs and cats (who are more prone to early onset severe dental disease.) Caring for the teeth early and properly will prevent more severe dental disease from developing.
Does my pet need a Dental Assessment, Hygiene & Treatment visit?
Probably! Just like people, pets need regular dental exams and cleaning to prevent disease from developing or progressing. If we don't care for our pets' teeth, dental disease will develop sooner rather than later. One of the new ideas the veterinary dentists have taught us is that it is best to prevent dental disease from developing in the first place through regular professional and home dental care. The AAHA Dental Care guidelines recommend annual Dental A, H & T visits. Routine professional dental care will prevent periodontal disease from developing in the first place and will bring established periodontal disease under control.
If the veterinarian has already recommended dental care or if your pet is 3 years of age or older, it is important to schedule the Dental A, H & T sooner instead of later. Established periodontal disease is a serious illness that must be treated promptly. Pets with advanced disease may require more frequent care to bring the disease under control.
If you aren't sure whether your pet needs a Dental A, H & T or if you want to talk to the veterinarian before scheduling, we offer a no-charge dental exam at any time just call for an appointment. An oral exam is also part of every complete physical exam, so if your pet is due for an exam or vaccinations, we will check your pet's oral health at that time.
Is it ever too late for dental care?
If it's not too late for your pet, it's not too late to take care of her mouth! With proper care, dental disease is both preventable and treatable. Caught early, dental disease can often be cured. Even when caught later, effective treatment is still available to prevent the progression of the disease and prevent complications such as organ damage and further tooth loss. Sometimes owners think their pet is "too old" or "too sick" for anesthesia and dentistry, but usually the benefits of relieving the infection and pain of oral disease far outweigh the risks of the procedure. Owners are often pleasantly surprised by how young and sprightly their older pet can behave after treatment for periodontal disease.
Have more questions??
On our Dental A,H&T FAQs page, you will find answers to. . .
- What on earth is a Dental A,H &T?
- Is the Dental Assessment, Hygiene and Treatment safe?
- How does an IV catheter and IV fluids before and during dentistry make the procedure safer?
- How does fluoride help?
- Why bother with intra-oral dental x-ray?
- Will my pet be in pain afterwards?
- Why must you anesthetize my pet? Can't you do it "awake"?
- Ouch! That's expensive!