Periodontal disease (PD) is the most common pathological condition we see in pets with 85% of all pets over four years of age having some degree of periodontal disease.
PD is initiated by plaque accumulating on the teeth. Once the plaque starts to accumulate under the gums, the body treats it as foreign material and reacts to it. This causes redness in the gums and will eventually lead to loss of bone surrounding the teeth and loss of the teeth. As you can imagine, this is painful for the pet – even if they are not exhibiting pain to the owner! The chronic inflammation and infection can also lead to the release of bacteria into the bloodstream. This bacteria can then lodge in vital organs causing infection and damage to the heart and kidneys.
To prevent this, we need to clean our pets teeth. This can be done at home by brushing the teeth, but once plaque and inflammation occur under the gums, we need to do a professional cleaning to get the plaque out from under the gum line. To do this, we need to use an ultrasonic descaler with an accompanying water supply to flush the area. As you can imagine, our pets will not sit through that, and we need to give a general anesthetic to allow the cleaning. When we are using a general anesthetic, we like to do preoperative blood work to ensure the pet’s internal organs are functioning well and that there is nothing evident which could complicate the anesthetic. Also, to make our anesthetics as safe as possible, all animals have an IV line placed and receive fluids throughout the procedure. During the entire process, a registered veterinary technician will be monitoring the pet to make sure there are no complications.
As you can see, a dental prophy in a pet is not just a dental cleaning. It also requires general anesthesia, preoperative blood work, IV fluids and anesthetic monitoring throughout as well as the cleaning. This, of course, costs more but will be well worth the expense of ensuring the health of your pet.
Written by Dr. Goodridge, DVM