Animal Dental Care and Disease
This article will teach you the information necessary to communicate to a client the necessity of dental care for their pet. It will not teach how to clean teeth or how to perform a root canal. The purpose is to teach when a dental prophylaxis is needed and how to communicate to a client the home care that follows a dental procedure.
Dental disease is a serious threat to our dogs and cats. It is important to understand the anatomy and how dental disease occurs so that you can better communicate to the pet owner about the serious nature of this disease. There are many pets who live shortened, miserable lives because of unnoticed or unmanaged dental disease.
Many pet owners think it is normal for the teeth to “fall out” of an eight-year-old poodle. The human/companion animal bond is greatly diminished by severe dental disease that causes bad breath and irritability in the pet who used to be allowed to “give kisses”. Pets say “hello” by licking and nuzzling and if their breath smells bad they will not be allowed this normal part of their social makeup. The unfortunate thing is that by the time the breath smells bad or the teeth are noticed to have disease, it is often too late to save the normal dental structure of the mouth.
Animals in the wild have very little periodontal disease; therefore, this malady must be a by-product of the domestication of our pets. Research has shown when dogs are fed ox tail they do not develop periodontal disease. This suggests that the dental disease that we see in our domesticated pets is largely due to the commercial pet foods they eat. This can be remedied by feeding Hill’s Prescription Diet® Canine t/d® food (tartar control diet). This food causes a natural “brushing” effect to the tooth surface and gum tissues.
Periodontal disease is explained in the following text but simply stated: Periodontal disease is the disease process occurring around the tooth that leads to the loss of the tooth from destruction of the bone that holds the tooth in place. The presence of tartar on the tooth surface is only a sign that periodontal disease is occurring. This disease process develops because of the reaction to bacteria growing in the food/saliva residue left under the gum line after eating. The way the body reacts to bacteria is with white blood cell invasion and inflammation. This causes a “war zone” around the tooth. This “war zone” causes the destruction of the bone that holds the tooth in place. Many people talk about “receding gums” as a part of dental disease. The gums are receding because they are attached to the bone, which is being dissolved by the “war” between the white blood cells and the bacteria growing in the plaque beneath the gum line.
Periodontal disease is very common – affecting over eighty-five percent of the mature dogs in the United States. Periodontal disease is a preventable and treatable disease that threatens the life of the pet. Because the mouth has an abundant blood supply, bacteria from the infected gum tissues are spread to the entire body, “showering” the liver, kidneys, heart, joints and other tissues with infection. In humans, the most common cause of valvular heart infection is dental disease.
Most of us understand the importance of daily oral care in our own mouths because our teeth should last from forty to sixty-five years. Contrast this with a pet that has lost almost every tooth at the end of eight years. Reflect on the pain and discomfort that you might have experienced with dental problems, and then think about what pets go through. They cannot talk to us about the chronic dull pain that is associated with dental disease, yet we know they feel it. This disease diminishes the quality and quantity of life that “man’s best friend” experiences, and we have the power and obligation to do something about it.
You need to learn about the home care for the teeth of pets so that you can make recommendations with the confidence that will convince a client to start dental care today. You need to understand the value of Hill’s Prescription Diet® Canine t/d® in the fight against dental disease.
Dental disease can occur because of mal-positioning of the teeth within the bone of the jaw in dogs. Correction of this problem is called dog orthodontics. Dental disease can occur because of damage or infection to the inner portion of the tooth and correction of these diseases is called endodontics. Periodontics is concerned with the structures that surround the outer portion of the tooth and gums. These structures provide support for the tooth and keep the tooth in place.
Aside from periodontal disease, the most common causes of dental problems occur because of trauma to a tooth. This can occur because of being hit by a car or falling or other blunt blows to the head or face. Teeth that are damaged during these events can be treated with a combination of the above “dontics”.
The most common tooth to abscess in the dog is the upper fourth premolar. The pet chewing on hard substances commonly fractures this tooth. The resulting “slab fracture” opens the roots to possible infection. A swelling below the eye is very typical for this infection. This tooth is also the landmark for the location of the salivary duct for the parotid salivary gland. Saliva contains large amounts of calcium, which predisposes to tartar and the upper fourth premolar is commonly the first tooth to show tartar deposition. Keep in mind as you go through this material that you will be communicating these messages to the client in an effort to prevent their loved one from going through the misery of dental disease. This brief introduction touches on the issues that are discussed in the following handout.
SELF EVALUATION— Answer the following questions:
- How does dental disease diminish the human/companion animal bond?
- Please list four major reasons that dental disease is important to the health of dogs and cats.
- Name a diet that has been shown to prevent dental disease.
- What is orthodontics?
- What is periodontics?
- What is endodontics?