It is easy to forget that a pet’s world revolves around its mouth.

Poor dental hygiene can leave its mark on your pet. Surprisingly, bad breath (halitosis) is an abnormal condition in cats and dogs, often indicating a serious underlying condition called periodontal disease, which affects the mouth, gums and teeth.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is the most common medical disorder among pets nationwide, affecting more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats by age three. If left untreated it can develop into serious health problems. Advanced dental disease significantly impacts your pet’s quality of life, leading to oral pain that makes feeding difficult and resulting in chronic discomfort. In some cases, harmful bacteria originating in the mouth can enter the bloodstream, causing serious complications of the heart, kidneys and liver, as well as other systemic disorders.

Preventative Dental Care

Fortunately, due to its generally slow rate of progression, dental disease is exceedingly preventable. Just like in humans, a good oral health routine is key in avoiding most types of periodontal disease. The first (and best) line of defense in preventative dental care are exams and cleanings. In addition to comprehensively evaluating your pet’s oral health, these appointments consist of hand scaling and curettage to remove plaque and tarter, polishing and rinsing, improving tooth and gum health significantly.

Veterinary dentistry has developed rapidly over the past fifteen years and is now approaching the same sophisticated techniques that are available in human dentistry. Research has proven that pets who have received modern veterinary dental procedures and professional cleanings have an increased life span and quality of life.

Digital Dental Radiography

Digital radiography is a powerful diagnostic tool used to detect dental disorders and injuries. A quick and painless process, radiography uses a controlled dose of x-ray radiation to examine your pet’s mouth, using the varying densities of its contents (teeth, gums, ligaments, etc.) to construct a composite image. This digital readout highlights any present abnormalities, allowing diagnosis and treatment to commence.

Veterinary dental x-rays are commonly used to identify tooth decay and cavities, malignant dental structures, bone loss and other periodontal diseases.

As the Greensboro area’s veterinary leader, Southwoods Animal Hospital utilizes updated digital radiograph technology. Digital x-rays require much lower doses of radiation and are processed almost instantly, becoming available for examination more quickly than traditional radiographs and improving pet safety.

Dental Treatments

Dental Nerve Blocks

Southwoods Animal Hospital is committed to providing the highest level of comfort to our patients during every stage of oral treatment.

Nerve blocks are a class of anesthetics administered to your pet during oral surgery to minimize discomfort during and immediately following the procedure. These are important components to overall pain management, reducing post-operative side effects like hypertension by easing the recovery period.

Local blocks are used to remove pain sensation from the targeted area of the mouth, often being used in conjunction with other systemic pain medication to maximize effectiveness. Your pet will never feel undue pain or discomfort during their stay at our hospital.

To learn more about pain management and patient comfort, please contact Southwoods Animal Hospital today.

Tooth Extractions

Tooth extractions are very common procedures that provide much needed relief for our patients. While we try to provide alternative treatments first, dental extractions are necessary when oral disease or infection cannot be controlled by any other method.

Common removal situations include:

  • Fractured teeth that are causing pain and are at risk of infection.
  • Tooth and its supporting structures have been rendered unusable by periodontal disease.
  • Making room for more important teeth by removing smaller secondary teeth, this makes the entire dental system more stable.

Types of extractions:

  • Single root. These simple extractions occur when the tooth, crowns and roots can be removed in one section. This is a simple and easy procedure that requires little surgical intervention, only needed to properly close the extraction site.
  • Surgical and multi-rooted. Due to the anatomical makeup of canine and feline teeth, surgical extractions are often required. A cat and dogs teeth have deep roots that are tightly connected to the surrounding tissue. Due to these complex structures, surgical extractions are the safest and preferred method of removal for pets. A small incision is made to release the roots at their base and the surrounding tissue is cleaned out and treated, the tooth is removed and the incision is sutured closed.

The recovery process for extractions is relatively quick, with many patients being able to eat soft food soon after the procedure, and back to full health within several days.

Oral Mass Removals

While often not externally apparent, cats and dogs are at risk of tumors inside their mouths. Representing a sizable percentage of all cancerous masses in pets, oral tumors appear in the bone, teeth or soft tissue of the upper and lower jaw, tongue or throat.

While tumors can be benign, their malignant counterparts necessitate that all oral growths be investigated. A biopsy is performed and the tissue is used to determine what type of mass it is. Tumors exist in a large variety of forms, each with specific characteristics. The most common types of oral malignant tumors are melanoma, carcinoma, fibrosarcoma and osteosarcoma. For the majority of oral tumors, surgical removal is the most effective treatment.

Oral mass removals depend on the type, size and location of the tumor. Depending on the circumstances, tumors may be excised by themselves, or with a section of the surrounding area to ensure all malignant tissue is removed.

How can I help my pet?

Visual checks are a great, proactive way to discover oral masses in their early stages. Weekly inspections are recommended to note changes, if uncharacteristic swelling is observed please contact your Southwoods Animal Hospital veterinarian immediately.

Gingivectomy

This dental procedure helps remove and remodel diseased gum tissue. Gingivectomies are performed to eliminate deep pockets that are formed between the base of your pet’s teeth and the gum line. These pockets increase the risk of infection and harbor bacteria that accelerate periodontal disease, leading to tooth loss. If left untreated, dental disease can do irreversible damage to your pet’s mouth as well as introducing harmful bacteria into their bloodstream that can damage their heart, kidneys and liver.

The procedure begins with root planing to eliminate bacteria from the gums, then the targeted tissue is traditionally removed using a scalpel; however, modern technology has allowed for the use of lasers in some cases, this results in a less invasive treatment with a quicker recovery period.

Recovery time lasts an average of seven to 10 days. Pets should be limited to soft foods during that time. The risk of infection is still present, so the surgical sight should be kept as clean as possible.

Please consult your Southwoods Animal Hosptial specialist for more information on periodontal disease and overall gum health.

Root Planing and Scaling

Root planing is a dental process that removes plaque and calculus from target regions of your pet’s mouth. Eliminating these irritants helps fight inflammation and contributes to over all periodontal health and is the cornerstone of preventative dental cleanings.

Large-scale plaque buildup is a haven for harmful bacteria that contribute to periodontal disease. Root planing and scaling “deep cleans” the target area from the gums down to the roots, a scraper or ultrasonic tool is used to remove harmful agents and stop the progression of gum disease. Scaling is relatively painless, but local anesthesia may be administered to your cat or dog.

Depending on the severity of the periodontal disease, scaling may be a component of a larger treatment plan that includes oral surgery. Flossing and brushing your pet’s teeth is good way to continue good daily oral health practices after the recovery period ends.

Southwoods Animal Hosptial offers complete oral health services including:

  • Annual dental cleaning
  • Digital dental x-rays
  • Preventative dental care
  • Emergency oral services
  • Advanced dentistry including restorative and endodontic therapy

To schedule dental services for your pet, please contact Southwoods Animal Hosptial.

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