Does your pet have evidence of a dental problem?

posted: by: Tammy Chastain DVM Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

As we continue to prepare for dental health month in February, we’d like to share with you a few of the common dental health issues that we come across in our patients.  Does your pet have evidence of any of these conditions?  It might be time for a check-up!


Retained Deciduous (baby) Teeth:  Just as human children lose a set of baby teeth to make way for their adult teeth, dogs and cats shed their baby or deciduous teeth as well.  Normally dogs and cats have a full set of adult teeth by six months of age.  A baby tooth is considered retained when the corresponding adult tooth is erupted and has not pushed the baby tooth out.  This results in crowding, trapped food particles, early onset of periodontal disease, and the possibility of an abnormal bite or occlusion of the adult teeth.


Fractured teeth:  It is quite common for pets to break or fracture a tooth.  The severity depends on the depth of the fracture and whether vital structures have been exposed or harmed.  If the fracture is deep enough that the nerve and blood vessels are exposed (referred to as pulp exposure), then the tooth will require further treatment such as extraction or a root canal procedure.  Pulp exposure not only results in a very painful tooth, but also creates a pathway for bacteria to enter and infect the sensitive structures around the root tip leading to what is referred to as a periapical abscess.


Resorptive lesions:  Cats are the primary species affected by this painful condition.  These lesions are commonly found around the base of the tooth where it meets the gum.  They are characterized by the breakdown of the normal tooth enamel resulting in pits or cavities that expose the underlying sensitive structures.  In advanced stages, this condition can result in fracture of the tooth at the gum line due to the weakened enamel.  There is currently no successful treatment option besides extraction of the affected teeth to relieve the pain associated with them.


Periodontal Disease:  Bacteria on the teeth create a film called plaque.  If left untreated, the plaque can become mineralized and forms a hard, cement-like substance called calculus that adheres to the teeth.  Further progression of the disease leads to inflammation of the gums, loosening of the tooth attachments, and eventual tooth loss.  Due to the large blood supply in the mouth, there is also risk for bacterial entry into the bloodstream where it can travel to the heart, kidneys, liver, or other vital organs.


Whether your pet has an early stage of periodontal disease, or one of the more painful or significant issues mentioned above, it may be time for an evaluation to determine if he or she is a candidate for a dental cleaning and/or further dental treatment so they can have a happy, healthy smile free of pain.