Pet Dental Care 101: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Do pets really need dental X-rays?

Yes. Because 70 percent of gum disease is below the gumline, without X-rays, you’re missing 70 percent of the diagnosis, and that’s unacceptable.

Do pets get cavities?

Cavities are rare in dogs and cats. However, many other problems, such as periodontal disease, gingivitis, abscesses and tooth loss, occur in dogs and cats, just as these things happen in people who neglect their teeth.

Do pets' gums recede like people's do?

Yes. Their gums can recede. Pets also get periodontal pockets, where infections can take hold.

Will a dental cleaning help my pet's breath?

A thorough dental cleaning and regular brushing at home is going to improve your pet’s breath. Dogs and cats should not naturally have bad breath.

What does it mean when a tooth changes color?

The tooth is either dying or dead. It can turn anywhere from pink to dark purple to black. Certain drugs can also cause tooth discoloration. Such affected teeth aren’t dead or dying, but the staining can be permanent. If one of your pet’s teeth is discolored, ask your veterinarian to take a closer look.

Can pets have root canals performed and crowns placed?

Absolutely. When the root, or inside of the tooth, is damaged or compromised, it becomes infected. If that happens, we either need to pull the tooth or take out the inside, repack the space with a stable substance, and close it off, just like we would do for a person.

What happens if my pet has a broken tooth?

If there is root or pulp exposure, the tooth should be extracted or a root canal must be performed. When a tooth first breaks, it really hurts. But then the root dies and the pain lessens. However, the break can still allow infection to grow in the jawbone for years and cause a lot of damage.

Are bones good for teeth or are they harmful?

Not only can bones break your pet’s teeth, but they can also cause intestinal damage. A wiser option is to choose products that have been developed specifically for dogs to chew on. Ask your veterinarian which chew toys he recommends.

What about chewing on sticks?

Dogs can break their teeth on a lot of things, including sticks. If your dog chews on sticks, you need to check her mouth daily, and if something is broken, you need to get it fixed right away. Wood slivers and splinters can also cause gum and tongue lacerations and gastrointestinal problems, so letting your dog chew on sticks really isn’t the best idea. Ask your veterinarian for ways to nip the habit in the bud.

Are there chew toys that are good for pets' teeth?

There are many good toys that help remove tartar or massage the gums, but keep in mind that they do not address periodontal disease.

I recommend that clients avoid hooves, ears, rocks and pizzle sticks. Those are the four things that I have found most often lead to root canals.

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