February 15, 2022 | Tips and Training
By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker – https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2022/02/06/how-common-is-dental-disease-in-pets.aspx
Did you know that animals with clean teeth live longer, healthier lives? February has been designated Pet Dental Health month to help raise awareness about oral disease in companion animals.1 Many people don’t realize that neglecting their pet’s teeth can have wide ranging health consequences that go far beyond stinky breath and gum disease.
It’s important for pet parents to carefully monitor the goings-on inside their furry family member’s mouth, because untreated dental and gum problems in dogs and cats can set the stage for more serious health issues.
Studies have linked periodontal disease in both humans and pets to systemic diseases of the kidneys and liver, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes complications, problems during pregnancy, and even cancer. These serious health concerns develop or are made worse by the constant presence of oral bacteria flushing into the bloodstream through inflamed or bleeding gum tissue.
The good news is that many of these conditions improve once the dental disease is resolved and good oral hygiene is maintained.
A recently published large-scale study concludes that small breed dogs tend to be more at risk for periodontal (gum) disease than larger breeds.2 For the study, researchers reviewed over 3 million veterinary records across 60 breeds of dogs in the U.S. and found that gingivitis and periodontitis occurred in 18% of dogs overall.
It’s important to note that the true incidence of canine periodontal disease can only be confirmed through in-depth clinical investigation under anesthesia, however, the 18% figure is consistent with other study findings based on oral exams on conscious (non-anesthetized) dogs.
The study authors found that dogs under 14 pounds were up to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with periodontal disease than dogs over 55 pounds. In addition to body size, risk factors included a dog’s age, being overweight, and time since last scale and polish. The five breeds with the highest incidence of periodontal disease were:
Giant breeds (e.g., the Great Dane and Saint Bernard) had the lowest incidence. The researchers note that there can be several reasons why smaller dogs develop more dental issues than their larger counterparts, including the fact that they often have proportionally larger teeth (i.e., their tooth size isn’t scaled down to their body size).
Larger teeth in a smaller mouth can lead to overcrowding and increased accumulation of plaque that results in gum inflammation. Small breeds also have less alveolar bone (the bone that contains tooth sockets) compared to their relatively large teeth.
Daily homecare and as-needed professional attention by your veterinarian are the best way to keep your pet’s mouth healthy and disease-free. They are also important for pets with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.
Prior to the oral exam and cleaning, your pet should undergo a physical exam and blood tests to ensure she can be safely anesthetized for the procedure. The day of the cleaning, she’ll be sedated and a tube will be placed to maintain a clear airway and so that oxygen and anesthetic gas can be given.
An IV catheter should also be placed so that fluids and anesthesia can be administered as appropriate throughout the procedure. If you’re wondering why pets require general anesthesia and intubation for a seemingly simple procedure, there are a number of benefits:
Intubation while the patient is under general anesthesia protects the trachea and prevents aspiration of water and oral debris
While your pet is anesthetized, her teeth will be cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler as well as a hand scaler to clean under and around every tooth. Your vet will use dental probes to measure the depths of the pockets in the gum around each tooth, and x-rays should be taken.
Once all the plaque and tartar is off the teeth, the animal’s mouth will be rinsed and each tooth will be polished. The reason for polishing is to smooth any tiny grooves on the teeth left by the cleaning so they don’t attract more plaque and tartar. After polishing, the mouth is rinsed again.
The oral exam, x-rays and cleaning with no tooth extractions usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour. The cost will depend on where you live, and typically ranges from around $400 to $1,000. Veterinary dental specialist visits will be more expensive; you’re paying for more specialized equipment and their ability to expertly manage complicated oral problems.
Extractions are typically priced according to the type of tooth and the time and work needed to remove it. There are simple extractions, elevated extractions, and extractions of teeth with multiple roots, which tend to be the priciest. Exceptional pain management after dental extractions should never be elective; always give adequate pain control for as long as necessary after more invasive dental procedures.