February 2013: National Dental Awareness Month

February 2013

Wow, February is already upon us and winter is well underway.  It seems like yesterday that Christmas was a few months away and now we are preparing for Easter!  It won’t be long and we’ll be preparing for Christmas again.  So what does February mean other than Valentine’s Day?  February is also National Dental Awareness month.  Of course as animal owners we are well aware of the need for dental care, but how often should it be done, and what should be done?  Those are questions that hopefully this month’s blog will cover.

Dental disease in dogs and cats is a very important issue to us as animal owners.  Why is it so important you ask?  The most obvious is bad breath!  But why does this bad breath occur and what can be done to prevent it?  The first thing I’ll discuss is what usually causes the bad breath from many animals in need of dental care.  Dental caries, or cavities, are not as common as you might think in veterinary medicine.  We do see some, but not many.  It is believed that the environment in the mouth of animals prevents the acid produced by the bacteria to produce cavities.  As food particles form upon the teeth and dries, it becomes dental plaque.  Dental plaque will attract bacteria and lead first to gingivitis then to the more serious form of dental disease called periodontitis.  This bacteria can invade the tooth root and bone holding the teeth into place and cause the teeth to become infected and or loose.  At times teeth may spontaneously fall out.  This bacteria produces the bad breath smell along with the destruction that the bacteria is causing.  At times this bacteria can cause an abscess to form which presents itself as a swelling or leaking lesion beneath an eye.  If this occurs, an extraction is usually the only option.

So, we now know the reason for dental disease and what causes the bad odor.  How do we treat that problem?  The first step in treatment is to perform a professional cleaning.  A dental cleaning in a dog or cat requires general anesthesia to be performed.   The dog or cat is usually given an injection of anesthetic to produce sedation and loss of consciousness then the plaque is removed from the teeth making sure to clean thoroughly underneath the gum line.  During the cleaning, it is noted whether any pockets are present around the gum line and if there are any loose teeth noted.  After the removal of the plaque is complete, the teeth are polished to remove any blemishes on the enamel surface.  If any extractions are needed they are done at that time.  Some teeth require surgical extraction, others may just be pulled.  If pockets are noted they can be filled or treated with an antibiotic solution to help preserve the tooth.  Root canals can also be performed rather than having the teeth extracted, but those are usually done by dental specialists.  After all the extractions are completed, the mouth is thoroughly rinsed to remove debris and then rinsed with a cleaning solution.  The dental procedure is complete.

After a thorough dental cleaning, preventing dental disease becomes the important aspect.  There are many different means to preventing dental disease.  There are foods formulated that are sold over the shelf that promote dental health that may or may not work.  However, there are prescription foods sold that actually do prevent dental disease.  These foods act by mechanically scraping the teeth by being resistant to break down as well as preventing food particles from remaining on the teeth.  Scientific evidence has shown that food debris left on the teeth for greater than 2 days begins to turn into dental plaque.  Therefore, removal before that time should be a great means to preventing dental disease.  Another method of preventing dental disease is tooth brushing.  Dental specialists recommend a toothbrush that fits on the finger or a pediatric toothbrush to be used to brush the teeth of dogs.  Cats are difficult to brush but it’s also beneficial to them as well.  It is important to note that toothpaste formulated specifically for animals be used as some ingredients in human toothpaste can be toxic to animals and may make them sick.  There are also treats impregnated with soaps that clean the teeth extremely well also.  Ask Alison at our front desk how well the treats work for her dog, Roscoe!  The last two methods we recommend for keeping teeth clean and to prevent dental disease are a tooth rinse and a water additive.  Both of these items can be used to flush off the teeth and to prevent the buildup of plaque.  They both also enhance the breath smell.  Of course all of these methods don’t have to be used together to prevent dental disease as each one alone should help tremendously.  However, they all serve different purposes and can be used together.  Along with all the previously mentioned methods of preventing tartar build up, we also recommend having a professional cleaning at least once a year.

Now, you have probably more information than you ever wanted to know about cleaning your pet’s teeth.  Hopefully you can use this information to improve not only your pet’s breath, but also to improve your pet’s health as dental disease can progress to situations that are very serious.  Many times when we see a diseased mouth and the owners follow our suggestions they respond during the next visit that their pet acts a like a puppy or kitten again, even when missing those previously diseased teeth.  We commonly see that dental disease is overlooked in pets and we can’t stress enough how important it is.  If you take the time to have those teeth cleaned, we believe you will see how important it can be.  It will also eliminate those nasty odors coming from the mouths of our furry friends!    In order to promote the importance of dental health and in honor of dental health month we are offering 10% off our entire selection of dental products.  We are also offering 10% off our dental cleanings this month.  Along with your dental you will receive a sample of nearly everything discussed in this article to see if it fits what you are looking for and which methods you prefer.  We think you will be pleased with your decision.

In March we will be highlighting flea and tick prevention and we will discuss the similarities and differences in the preventatives and why they are important and should be applied/given monthly year round.  Follow us on facebook at www.facebook.com/surryanimalhospital and twitter @surryanimalhosp.  As always, leave your comments/questions below and we’ll answer them as soon as we can.



"We want to thank you all for your loving care to my precious Toby! We think y'all are the BEST and we appreciate all you do!"

- Danny and Mary Lynn

"Best hearts in the South, best care, and best at knowing your pet. You want experts... Go to Surry Animal Hospital."

- Matt

"The staff are so friendly, and the doctors are amazing! I wouldn't take my animals anywhere else!"

- Kristi

About Us

We are a full service animal hospital for companion animals as well as large animals. We offer a full range of medical and surgical services as well as preventative health care for your pets. We provide extensive in-house laboratory services, highly technical surgical skills and pharmaceuticals.

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Surry Animal Hospital, PA
926 Reeves Drive
Mt. Airy, NC 27030

Phone: (336) 789-9054
Fax: (336) 786-9005

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