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February is called "Dental Month" in the veterinary world, referring to often discounted dental procedures offered by many veterinary clinics to promote awareness about dental health in animals. Of course, dental health is important year-round and every pet that will allow a comprehensive examination is evaluated for dental health. As veterinarians, we look at teeth and talk about their role in your pet's overall health all day long. We recommend preventive options, routine procedures, treatment plans, even oral surgery. It has been my experience, however, that dental health is often overlooked by pet owners, and dental procedures are even considered an "extra" or luxury treatment for pets. I think the lack of concern about dental health in pets is often due to misinformation. I'm hoping to clear up some questions you may have about dental health and veterinary dentistry.

Who? The majority of dogs and cats over 2 years of age have some degree of periodontal disease. There are certain breeds or individuals that are likely to develop periodontal disease at a younger age and require cleanings and treatments more frequently throughout their lives. The need for dental care does not end when your pet is old. Animals need healthy mouths throughout their lives, and I would argue this is even more important for senior pets. Old age is not a reason to discontinue dental care.

What? A dental cleaning includes scaling and polishing of the teeth, a comprehensive periodontal exam, at some veterinary offices full mouth dental X-rays, and identifying and treating periodontal disease. It is meant to be a preventive treatment measure meaning that we fix it before there is a noticeable problem; we keep the problem from occurring or progressing. Infection and tartar buildup on teeth will not get better on its own. Once tartar is present on the teeth and under the gum line, the only way to effectively remove it is to scale it away. The longer we allow the tartar to accumulate, the more likely your pet is to experience infection or pain.

When? In some pets, dental treatments begin as early as 1 year of age. Many animals can wait until they are 2 to 3 years old. On average, dental treatment is required at least every 12 months, but some animals do require more frequent cleanings. If your pet is already experiencing disease, the time for treatment is now! Do not allow your pet to be at risk or in pain. Schedule the procedure today!

Where? Dental treatment should be prescribed by a veterinarian and performed in his/her medical office. While pet groomers can brush the teeth and temporarily relieve bad breath, they are not able to perform a professional periodontal exam and therapeutic cleaning. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, the standard of care dictates that animals should be under anesthesia for proper dental cleaning and treatment. This level of care can only be performed by a veterinarian.

Why? It's not just about doggy breath or pearly whites. Dental health is of the utmost importance in all species. Our pets depend on their teeth for eating, playing, working, and exploring their world. When an animal experiences an infection, gingivitis, or other periodontal concern, they are typically in pain whether their owner can detect this or not. Infection that develops under the gum line will enter the bloodstream and spread to affect multiple organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. Dental health is a basic medical need.

How much? Your veterinarian can provide you with a detailed estimate outlining the treatment plan for your pet. The price can vary with species, age, degree of disease, and other factors. Look over the estimate and understand the care your pet will receive. Dentistry is not always the same from one clinic to the next. Your veterinarian will gladly answer your questions. We want you to feel comfortable!

So, have you called your veterinarian's office to schedule your pet's dental cleaning and exam? I encourage you to make this a top priority today!

Go Magazine on 02/15/2020

Print Headline: An Ounce of Prevention

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