Guest Post: "Dental Cleaning for Pets is Not Just Cosmetic."

Dog Broken Tooth with Retained Roots
An x-ray of a dog with a broken tooth.

February is dental month in veterinary offices across the land. Many, if not most, of the clinics will have discounts on dental cleanings, so make sure to check your vet’s office. I can’t say that my technical staff is overly excited about February. Doing a proper dental cleaning with dental radiographs is a lot of work for them. We give a 20% discount on dentals done in February and boy do we get booked up quickly. That tells me people do see a real value in proper oral hygiene in their pets, but also tells me people are aware it can be an expense if not taken care of in the early stages. It takes our technicians a good hour to complete a dental cleaning, along with dental radiographs. Radiographs are so important because they allow us to see what is under the gums. We discover broken teeth and root abscesses that are impossible to see with the naked eye.

dog tooth cavity
An x-ray of a dog with a cavity.

X-rays are an integral part of a modern pet dental cleaning. Remember, even though animals have the some pain receptors we do, they handle pain so much differently. What would be quickly pointed out to our dentists by us as hurting, pets often hide. Radiographs let us see where it hurts. X-rays and proper dental veterinary care are not cheap. We just had to replace our x-ray sensor for $6,000, and it is only warranted for 1 year, but we need it to make proper diagnoses. They also help us to make sure the entire tooth is extracted when after we remove teeth.

Have you seen the new Febreeze commercials where the people have been around the cat’s litter box or the guy’s stinky shoes so long they become “nose-blind?” Well, let me tell you, it also happens to people with pets with stinky mouths. I can’t tell you how many times a pet’s halitosis has arrived in my office before the pet does! “Don’t you smell that?” I ask. And the response from my clients….”Smell what?” Nose-blindness (I am sure it has a more technical term) actually does happen to people. We get so accustomed to a persistent smell that we no longer smell it. So get your pet’s teeth cleaned so you don’t end up on one of those commercials!

Dental cleaning for our pets is not just cosmetic. It greatly improves the health of your animal. Dental disease is the most common disease in veterinary medicine. That putrid smell is due to proliferation of bacteria on the teeth and gums. That bacteria can easily get into the blood stream and make the animal systemically ill. This is proven to me so many times after we do a dental cleaning on an older dog with rotten teeth. Clients will tell you how the dog is acting like a puppy within one to two days. I can’t think of any one thing that does more for an animal than a dental cleaning.

So what can you do to help your pet maintain good oral health? First, for those of you who brush your dog’s teeth regularly… God love ya. It is often not easy, but it sure helps. Keep up the good work! What about dental bones and chews? They do help some, but remember they come with calories. Small DentaBones have 105 calories, medium Dentabones have 188 calories and larger Dentabone have a full 300 calories. That might not sound like much, but a 40 lb. dogs only needs 800-900 calories for the entire day.

To the dismay of my clients’ dogs, I no longer recommend Nylabones. My dog loves them! The problem is, they fracture so many teeth. and my dog broke her two biggest teeth. That is also true of streamed bone and deer antlers, they are like chewing on rocks. My favorite chew toys now are the Kong toys. They make a variety of sizes and shapes and they are virtually indestructible. The most important thing to prevent dental and oral disease is to make sure your vet examines you pet’s teeth and oral cavity every year. Remember, prevention is always best and cheaper.

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

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