When taking care of your cat or dog, what comes to mind when thinking of your pet’s overall wellness? More often then not, the answers we receive are maintaining a healthy diet and weight, keeping vaccinations current, and making sure your pet is bright, alert, and full of energy. While these responses are a portion of an animal’s overall wellness, we are missing a surprisingly large component; Dental Health. Periodontal disease is defined as a disease that attacks the gum and bone around the teeth in cats and dogs. There are 4 stages of periodontal disease. Stages 1 and 2 involve mild to moderate gingivitis (swelling of the gums) and plaque build up. These stages are reversible with a dental cleaning/polish. Stages 3 and 4 are much more involved. They include a significant amount gingivitis, plaque, and potential bone loss. These stages are not reversible and more often than not, require extracting teeth. During your pre-dental exam, your veterinary doctor will be able to tell you which stage of dental disease your pet is in. During this exam, however, it will be difficult to give you an estimate as to the exact number of teeth we presume need to be extracted. In most circumstances, cats and dogs find it uncomfortable while we attempt a general dental exam. In the event an animal allows us to have a complete and thorough look at their mouth, plaque may be hiding very severe tooth decay not visible before a complete cleaning. Once the cleaning is complete and the doctor has done a full probing exam of each tooth, we can then decide what teeth are healthy and what teeth need to be extracted. If any teeth need to be extracted above what we had originally anticipated, the surgical technician will be calling the owner at this time. This is to receive permission for extraction and approval of cost. The most common questions I receive when making these calls are, how necessary are the extractions, and how will my pet be able to eat? The second answer is very simple. Animals do extremely well handling multiple extractions. We often recommend feeding wet food or adding water to dry food for 3-5 days after the dental cleaning only to prevent discomfort during healing. The answer to the first question is equally as simple but deserves a more in-depth explanation. The extractions are incredibly important and very necessary. We would not be recommending any extractions if the teeth did not have to go. Bone loss cannot be reversed and the pocketing around the tooth poses a problem for future dental health. We can clean in and around the pocket but this area is a breeding ground for bacteria which will lead to further bone loss and infection. The plaque will form much faster in this pocketing then it would in a normal healthy gingival sulcus (pocketing depth around a healthy tooth). If we leave an unhealthy tooth in the mouth, the tooth may dissolve or eventually fall out. Unfortunately, this should never be an alternative solution. This process will cause discomfort and pain for the animal. Often times you will see blood on chew toys and pets will eat less or stop eating entirely due to the amount of pain their mouth is in. All the more reason to complete extractions at the time of a dental. The animal is asleep during the entire process and we send each patient home with pain medication. The healing time is roughly 3-5 days and generally we see smooth and quick recoveries. So what if a tooth obviously needs to be extracted? Can we extract the tooth without doing a dental? The answer is, no. there is good reason behind this answer! When a tooth is extracted, it leaves a considerably large gap where the tooth used to be. We use suture to close this gap that dissolves once healed. If we were to create this hole without cleaning the teeth first, we are exposing your pet to a significant amount of bacteria that will enter into the blood stream. Once we complete the sutures we are also closing the opening that would trap the bacteria and possibly cause further harm such as an abscess. This is why is extremely important to first clean the teeth before any extractions are made. If you are considering scheduling your pet’s dental cleaning, now is the time! February we are celebrating dental health by awarding 25% off of each dental polish. You will also receive a variety of samples for you to use at home to make dental maintenance easy and effective. This is over an $80 value you receive at no cost! Call the clinic now to schedule your pre-dental exam and dental cleaning. Feel free to also call or email the clinic if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s dental health.