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Dentistry 

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Pets suffer with dental problems too, often when they get older but also during their more active years. We undertake ultrasonic descaling, polishing and extractions as required using specialized dental equipment. Our vets and nurses are happy to chat about any dental issues that your pet might be experiencing.

Several of our vets have completed extra training in small animal dentistry and are well rehearsed in the most up to date methods of keeping your pet’s mouth healthy and pain-free. Our dental suite now includes dental radiography for complex extractions.

Common signs of dental disease

  1. No signs at all! Yes, this is probably cheating, however we commonly find evidence of dental disease on a routine examination. Animals often only show obvious signs of pain when dental    disease is severe and many pets live with toothache but show few, if any, signs.  People regularly comment how much happier their animal is after dental treatment has taken place even when they didn’t notice a problem before.
  2. Bad breath. This occurs due to the presence of harmful bacteria and infection in the mouth. Bad breath is not normal and should be investigated. 
  3. Altered behaviour. Chewing on one side of the mouth, dropping food, crying, recoiling from the food dish, hiding, not grooming and grumpiness are signs of severe oral pain. 
  4. Bleeding from the mouth. This is usually due to periodontal disease, but it could also be evidence of fractured teeth, lacerations, ulcers or the presence of an oral mass.  
  5. Heavy calculus deposits may be seen on the teeth. These are usually accompanied by gingivitis and periodontal disease 
  6. Cats frequently develop pit-like areas in their teeth similar to human cavities. These lesions are   hard to spot as they are often on the gum-line, can be extremely painful and are thought to be present in about 30% of healthy cats and over 50% of cats with demonstrable dental disease. 
  7. Red, receding or swollen gums. Gums should be a healthy pink colour, although some animals may have pigmented areas normally.

I think my pet has dental disease, what should I do?  

Being pro-active with your pet’s teeth has many benefits. Teeth which are protected from buildups of tartar and calculus are less likely to loosen, become infected or fall out. Additionally, poor oral health can lead not only to weight loss, pain,  matted fur and poor body condition but also to the spread of bacteria from the mouth to internal organs including the kidneys, liver and heart. 

You can help keep your pet’s mouth healthy by feeding dental chews or dental foods but nothing beats brushing.  Dental treats and kibbles are designed to have textural properties that maximise the self-cleaning effects of chewing. Bones, sticks and hard chew toys however, can cause tooth and/or soft tissue damage, sometimes get stuck and should be avoided. 

You can brush their teeth and feed them dental chews but your pet may still need more specific dental treatment such as a scale and polish — just as you visit the dentist even though you brush your teeth regularly. Genetic factors also play a part in the development of dental disease with pets on similar dental health regimes potentially having very different levels of dental disease. 

If you feel your pet has dental disease then please book an appointment with one of our vets or a free check up with one of our nurses who can advise on whether a veterinary consultation is required. We can then discuss with you which problems may be present and what can be done about them.

What does a “dental procedure” involve and why is anaesthesia necessary? 

Anaesthesia allows a pain-free and thorough examination of all aspects of all oral structures enabling the identification of the presence and depth of pockets in the gum or problems such as holes in the teeth. This is not possible in the conscious animal.  

Once the tartar and calculus is removed using an ultrasonic scaler, we examine each tooth for evidence of disease. Diseased teeth are then extracted either by gently detaching them from the surrounding bone, or by surgically removing the overlying bone and then suturing the gum in place with dissolvable sutures. The remaining teeth are then polished.   
 
This can be a prolonged process and is performed most often in older animals so we may advise a pre-operative blood sample to assess internal organ function and/or intravenous fluids. However, even an older animal is unlikely to have problems coping with an anaesthetic if healthy otherwise, and will probably benefit enormously from dental treatment.   

We may also recommend x-raying the tooth roots to see whether teeth need to be surgically removed, partially amputated or can be left in situ.  

Top tips for tooth-brushing

  • BE PATIENT. It is unlikely that your pet will permit you to brush their teeth on the first attempt, or possibly even the twentieth! 
  • Use a veterinary dental toothpaste - animals don’t usually like minty flavours.  
  • Ensure that all causes of discomfort are identified and treated first. Don’t try and brush your pet’s teeth if they have a painful mouth. 
  • Start off by training your pet to accept you examining their mouth, lifting their lip and touching their teeth. Use positive reinforcement such as a (dental) treat or follow up your sessions with a walk or dinner time.  
  • Make your sessions short but regular so your pet accepts it as part of their daily routine. 
  • Once your animal permits you to fully handle their mouth, consider progressing to a finger-brush. These are little rubber, thimble-like objects with bristles which fit onto your finger tip. 
  • When your pet is accustomed to you using a finger-brush, you can progress to a toothbrush. Don’t forget that these come in different sizes so get one which is appropriate for your needs.
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