Dentistry for Dogs
All dogs undergoing a dental procedure have their teeth and gums charted - this involves individual examination of each tooth, probing of the gingival sulcus and recording the amount of tartar (the brown, stony material), gingivitis (gum inflammation), and any other pathology present. If indicated, dental X-rays are taken to assess disease below the gum line - this can help decide whether a tooth should be extracted or not. A standard dental "scale and polish" involves the removal of tartar and plaque (the soft pasty material) from the tooth crown and the sulcus area under the gum line. An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean these areas - the scaler tip vibrates at 30,000 times per second and is accompanied with a fine spray of water which flushes, cools and lubricates the whole process. The teeth are then polished with a mildly abrasive fluoride paste - this smooths the surface of the tooth to prevent rapid reattachment of plaque. If teeth require extraction then we use a selection of sterile dental instruments and a high-speed dental drill. Often extraction sites will be closed using fine dissolving stitches to aid healing and post-dental comfort. All of the above dental treatment is performed under general anaesthetic in our dedicated dental theatre.
Preventative Dental Care
Over 85% of dogs over the age of three years have irreversible signs of dental disease. This is called periodontal disease. The main enemy to teeth is plaque - this is a mix of food debris, oral bacteria and saliva proteins. In the wild, dogs naturally cleaned their teeth by ripping and tearing their prey (though even this does not stop all dental problems!) Most domestic pets get no opportunity to clean their teeth in this manner. The key to preventing, or at least delaying, dental disease in your pet is by oral maintenance at home by you, the owner. Home care is often best started shortly after dental surgery while your dog still has a "clean mouth." Brushing the teeth daily - the gold standard! Braid Vets stock suitable finger brushes, toothbrushes and enzymatic toothpaste specially formulated for dogs teeth.
- Start with a finger brush and a small amount of paste. Concentrate on a small number of teeth at the front of the mouth and brush in a soft circular motion.
- Over a number of days, gradually increase the number of teeth brushed. Only brush the outer teeth surfaces, especially aiming for the gum margin.
- When your pet is confident with the finger brush then introduce the toothbrush. If you push a small amount of paste into the bristles, this will help stop instant licking off. A reward can then be offered e.g. a dental treat.
Not all dogs are willing to have their teeth brushed. Wet dog food e.g. canned food has several faults. Firstly it adds to the soft sticky matrix that is the basis of dental plaque. Secondly, the wet food has no cleaning action on the teeth, and thirdly because diets are soft, minimal saliva is needed to swallow them and this deprives the mouth of a powerful cleaning agent. At Braid Vets our preference is to feed good quality complete dry pelleted diets. For dental care out first choice is Hills Prescription T/D diet - this diet removes plaque from the teeth as your dog bites it. Feed at least 1/3rd of the daily diet as a T/D diet, though it can be fed as the sole source of food. Hills T/D diet becomes our first choice if your pet is unwilling to have their teeth brushed. We also stock Vet Aquadent - this is a refreshing and palatable drinking water additive that helps fight bad breath and dental plaque.
Dogs are not designed to eat large bones, stones, sticks, hard nylon toys etc, as they will often break the teeth. In the wild dogs hunt smaller prey with softer bones - e.g birds, rabbits and rats. At Braid Vets we stock a variety of dental treats e.g. Logic Orozyme chews (containing plaque breaking enzymes) and Ostrich Chews - these chews are useful aids but do not replace T/D diet or brushing. Treats help dental care as they encourage salivation and are mildly abrasive, both helping prevent plaque and tartar from forming.