Dental disease is one of the leading causes of animal health problems

And it is often overlooked by most pet owners.

Just like humans, our pets need dental care too. Without a good dental hygiene plan, our pets can become vulnerable to gum and tooth disease. Did you know 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffer from some form of dental disease by the age of 3? What’s more, dental disease is also capable of causing problems elsewhere in the body (heart, skin, gut, kidneys).

When there is an accumulation of bacteria and food particles in the mouth, plaque is formed. Plaque will adhere to the surface of the teeth above and below the gum line. If left alone, the plaque will eventually calcify and eventually become a yellow-brown substance called tartar. Over time, severe and often irreversible changes can occur in the mouth which can include:

  • Gum infections (gingivitis)
  • Receding gumlines
  • Bad breath
  • Oral pain
  • Destruction of the supportive structures around the tooth and tooth roots
  • Loosening or compete loss of teeth

What if my pet has dental disease?

First, we recommend that your pet’s teeth are examined by one of our vets. At the Flemington Vet Hospital, all our health checks include routine dental checks. We also offer a free 5 minute dental assessment (bookings required). If there is evidence of dental disease, our vets will make the best recommendations for your pet. Dental procedures require a general anaesthesia in order to properly examine, evaluate and treat the dental disease.

Does my pet need an anaesthetic for a dental procedure?

Yes – this is the only way to perform a thorough examination of your pet’s mouth and provide the appropriate treatment. 60% of the tooth is below the gumline and this is where many of the problems occur. A complete dental clean involves evaluation of the gum pocket depth, ultrasonic tartar scaling above and below the gumline, and polishing. Anaesthesia allows any dental treatments to be administered pain free – even when tooth extractions are required. We also use this opportunity to take dental x-rays. Anaesthetic-free dental cleaning is considered subpar and inadequate – they only clean the teeth superficially without truly addressing the underlying problems.

My pet is still eating. Do I still need to treat the dental disease?

Yes! Dental disease such as gingivitis, gum infections or rotten teeth are painful. Pets will still eat normally in earlier stages. In later stages, some pets may refuse to eat dry kibble. Most pets will only stop eating when the pain becomes unbearable!

How can you tell if my pet’s tooth needs to be removed?

There are many techniques to assess the viability of a tooth. Firstly, we clean the tooth above and below the gum. We then use dental probes to determine the depth of the gum pockets. When there is advanced dental disease, the root may start to detach from the gums and surrounding structures. In cats, we can sometimes probe holes in the teeth themselves (called feline oral resorptive lesions). Other times, the problems aren’t as obvious. We take dental x-rays to screen for any problems that are hiding under the gums.

Is my pet too old to have a dental procedure?

No. Pain from dental disease can significantly impact your pet’s quality of life. We believe that all pets should live free from pain. Our team at the Flemington Vet Hospital use the latest anaesthesia techniques to minimise any risks and complications(read more about our anaesthesia here). Our vets can assess your pet’s case individually and we can tailor the anaesthesia to meet your pet’s unique needs.

Once my pet has a dental procedure, do I need to do anything?

Yes! A vast majority of dental problems can be prevented. The maintenance of dental hygiene is something that must be kept up at home by all pet owners. A comprehensive dental treatment and clean will treat any existing problems but the plaque and tartar can return quickly if no hygiene management is provided. Prevention is better than a cure!

See our guide to good dental hygiene management for more tips.