Do pets really need dentals.


1st October 2018


All animals eat food containing sugars and other nutrients which can stick to the surface of the tooth and form a plaque. Plaque is a white film which builds up and accumulates; then substances in the saliva cause it to harden forming tartar. Tartar takes around 4 days to form but its growth is stopped by the removal of plaque. Tartar sits in the gum and causes the bone beneath it to resorb reducing the bone density and strength of the bone which holds the tooth into the socket. This can even lead to fractures in the jaw bones!


This is periodontal disease - one of the most common diseases in the mouth. It can lead to other chronic diseases if not treated with “a dental” because the infection travels in the blood around the body. Additionally, pain in the mouth may affect your pet’s ability and desire to eat, so it is important to get it treated or it can quickly lead to other diseases.


Most dentals are done with the pet under anaesthetic. This means they are put under a controlled sleeping drug, so no pain will be felt during the procedure. It is much more comfortable for the animal. We need their mouth open for a long period of time and an anaesthetic allows us to inspect the jaw in much greater detail. The vet is able to clean areas beneath the gum line which are not easily accessible while the patient is awake.


The aim of a dental is to remove the plaque and tartar from everywhere in the mouth, to undertake a full oral cavity examination and repair or remove any infected or damaged teeth. The vet will assess the alignment of the teeth and palate too.


It is best to catch periodontal disease early and the signs are:

  • bad breath
  • red or bleeding gums which appear sore
  • loose or discoloured teeth
  • bad smelling breath
  • pain within the mouth especially when eating or using their jaw.


It is always best to contact us if you notice any of these signs or a sudden change in any of the symptoms, as our vets will be able to advise what the most sensible next step is. They are able to provide painkillers when necessary, providing your pet with a more comfortable life instantly, pending definitive treatment.


It is useful if you regularly check your pet’s mouth by opening it and looking inside - we are able to show you how to do this safely. The more often you do it, the more used to the process the animal will become, making it less stressful for your pet. It is best if you start these routine procedures when the animal is young, but do not worry if you haven’t. If you get used to seeing what your pet’s oral cavity looks like when it is healthy, you have a much better chance of noticing when a change in the mouth has occurred.


Dogs and cats have very similar tooth layout, but the number of teeth does differ. They have baby teeth which appear between 3-6 weeks of age and they are then replaced with a permanent set of teeth at around 3 months of age. These timings do vary due to genetics, breed, the environment or physical damage. This second set of teeth needs to be kept healthy because, if they drop out, they will not be replaced!


Rabbits’ teeth are very different, and they continually grow. If they are not fed the correct diet to grind them down, the teeth can grow up through the cheek. This can cause abscesses and is extremely painful. They need food such as hay to help wear the teeth down, and often like to gnaw on things - this is a natural behaviour they must be allowed to perform.


How do I know when my pet needs a dental?


If you notice any pain when the animal is eating or drinking or playing with a toy using its mouth, it is worth inspecting the mouth in more detail (if safely possible).


You should look for discolouration of the teeth or one tooth: darker areas or an inconsistent tone across the surface. You should check the shape of the jaw: are there any teeth missing? Does the shape of the jaw look fairly similar on each side? The structure of the tooth should be checked - any chips in the tooth? Any teeth not pointing in the correct direction? Are any new teeth coming through which could cause pain? Smell your pet’s breath - smelly breath generally indicates poor health within the oral cavity and a potential infection.


If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment for a dental check with one of our vets!


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