Veterinary Dentistry and Pet Dental Health

February has been designated as Pet Dental Month for the last fifteen years. The goal of the designation was to help people become aware of how important dental care is in our dogs. Most people are aware of the need for dental care for pets. Yet many dogs suffer silently in pain from gum disease and abscessed teeth.

Why?

Veterinary training in school must cover many topics other than just dentistry.

Training

Dental training, depending on when one graduated, could have been nonexistent to only a small part of veterinary training. Human dentists focus only on dentistry in school, while veterinarians must focus on all aspect of your pets’ health as well as differences in species and all the various diseases worldwide. Many dedicated hours of continuing education have been added to our school knowledge to become efficient in treating and managing dental disease.

Equipment

The cost of equipment and its maintenance is high. Many veterinarians do not have proper dental equipment such as dental radiographs (x-rays). Hospitals that are cleaning teeth without dental radiographs are unable to properly identify dental abscesses and other problems occurring below the gum line, where many of the problems occur.

Poor Communication

Just as in people, dental disease starts at a young age, not just after six years old. In dogs under 40 pounds, there are a variety of structural factors that predispose them to major dental disease. These patients should have teeth cleanings at least yearly beginning at  three years of age. Some larger breed dogs have less problems, but still require regular exams. This message is being poorly communicated.

Structural problems

The wolf has 42 teeth with massive jaws and bone structure to support the teeth. The Chihuahua has 42 teeth with a jaw structure that is as thin as tissue paper  around many of the teeth. In addition, there is marked crowding of these teeth together to maneuver that many teeth in a small jaw structure.  This complicates the problem. These miniature jaws, in our small breed dogs, rapidly become infected with bacteria, quickly decaying everything near them. The destruction causes pain, structural bone loss, resulting in teeth falling out with an abscessed root left within the jawbone, hiding and harboring decay.

The role of dental caretaker at home.

Donald Loden DVM, CVA,CVPP

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