Dentistry FAQs

Frequently Asked Dental Questions and Their Answers

Why should I brush my pet’s teeth?

Daily removal of plaque is the key to an effective oral hygiene program. Unless your pet’s teeth are brushed daily, plaque , which is an accumulation of bacteria, will build up at the gum line. Eventually, calculus forms, further irritating the gums, causing infection that progresses to destroy the attachment around your pet’s teeth. In addition to being painful and creating loose teeth, infection under the gum line can spread to the liver, kidneys and heart.


How can I brush my pet’s teeth?

It is usually a very easy and fun procedure. First, pick a soft –bristled or finger toothbrush. Next, get toothpaste from your veterinarian. Do not use toothpaste intended for humans because it has detergents that should not by swallowed. Apply a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush and brush the outside of the upper cheek teeth. Concentrate on the area where the tooth meets the gum line.


How often does my pet need to have its teeth cleaned by the veterinarian?

It depends on the degree of plaque and tartar accumulation. Examine your pet’s teeth monthly. Look for an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gum line. Pay particular attention to the cheek teeth and canines.

Once you notice plaque or tartar accumulation, it is time for a professional cleaning. Do not wait. Attached to the tartar are bacteria that are irritating gum tissues. When treated, inflammation will be resolved. When gingivitis is left untreated, it will progress to periodontitis, which is nonreversible.

The intervals between teeth-cleaning procedures will depend on how often you can brush your pet’s teeth. Once or twice daily is optimum. If you cannot brush your pet’s teeth, then your pet will probably need two or three professional teeth-cleaning visits yearly.


Can I just take my fingernail or a dental scaler to remove the calculus?

Dental disease occurs below the gum line. By removing calculus from the visible part of the tooth, you are not removing disease below the gum line. In order to help your pet, plaque and calculus must be removed from below the gum line.


Do you have to use anesthetics to clean my pet’s teeth?

Anesthesia is necessary when performing teeth cleaning. Anesthesia provides three important functions: immobilization in order to clean below the gum line, pain control and the ability to place a tube in the windpipe so bacterial products do not enter the respiratory system.


I am concerned about the anesthesia. Is it safe?

We take every effort to ensure anesthetics are safely administered. We use the safest of anesthetic agents. All dogs and cats are given preoperative tests, depending on their age and condition, to qualify them as candidates for anesthesia. Finally, while anesthetized, all animals are continuously monitored by a dedicated Registered Veterinary Technician. Check out our Patient Monitoring section for more info on how we keep your pet safe under general anesthesia.


How much does a tooth cleaning procedure cost?

It is impossible to quote what the procedure will cost because we do not know what state your pet’s teeth and gums are in. The range of fees is based on severity plus fees for preoperative testing, anesthesia, necessary therapy and medication. Generally we will give you an estimate for the cleaning procedure. Once the dental examination and x-rays are completed, if the veterinarian feels further treatment is required they will call you to discuss the procedures and costs before proceeding with treatment.


What is best to feed my pet?

Hard food will help remove plaque from teeth. There are special diets specifically manufactured to help keep dogs’ and cats’ teeth clean. Feeding these special diets in conjunction with daily brushing is the best way to keep teeth clean. Diet alone will not control plaque, but it will help.


What toys should I avoid to protect my pet’s teeth?

Chewing on objects harder than the tooth my lead to dental fractures. Be especially careful with cow and horse hooves. They commonly cause fractures of the upper cheek teeth. Do not play tug-of-war games, especially with young dogs and cats, because they can move growing teeth to abnormal locations. Throwing dog Frisbees can also cause trauma to the teeth resulting in pulpitis (an inflammation of the pulp).


What are cat cavities?

Many cats get painful lesions at the gum line that invades the teeth. The lesions are referred to as feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLS). Unfortunately, we do not know what causes FORLs and the most effective treatment involves extraction of the affected tooth.


How can I tell if my pet is suffering from periodontal disease?

The leading sign is bad breath. Dogs and cats should not have disagreeable mouth odor. Bad breath comes from infection. If your pet’s breath is offensive, let us examine his mouth and advise care.


What types of tests are done to diagnose dental disease?

If periodontal disease is present or if your pet has a fractured tooth, an oral exam is performed while the pet is under anesthesia. A periodontal probe is used to evaluate bone loss around each tooth. Radiographs are taken to evaluate if teeth can be saved or need to be extracted.


When do I have to start worrying about dental problems with my pet?

As soon as puppy or kitten teeth emerge, it’s time to start brushing. Although baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth, the puppy or kitten gets used to the brushing procedure, which continues for life.


What can be done if my pet has periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease occurs when tooth support structures are affected by infection. In the beginning stages, cleaning above the below the gum line as well as removal of calculus attached to the tooth will help restore periodontal health. In advanced cases, either periodontal surgery or extractions are performed.


Which animals are most at risk for periodontal disease?

Smaller breeds are more prone than larger because the teeth are closer together in small dogs, and these dogs usually live longer. Terriers, Maltese and Shiih Tzus are especially prone to periodontal disease.


What can you do to fix a broken tooth?

If your dog or cat breaks its tooth, there are two treatments: root canal therapy (only available at veterinary dental specialists) to save the tooth or extraction. Leaving the tooth alone with an exposed nerve is not a humane option. In addition to pain, infection will develop, which can spread to vital organs.