Dental care is important for maintaining our pet's health, but is often overlooked.
The majority of pets will have some level of dental disease by the time they are three years old. As time goes on, untreated dental disease can cause inflamation of the gums (periodontal disease), pain, and tooth loss, as well as damage to internal organs from the bacteria that is introduced into the bloodstream from the mouth.
The most effective way to prevent dental disease is daily brushing at home using a toothpaste specially formulated for pets (human toothpaste contains fluoride, which can cause digestive upset when swallowed). There are also many brands of dental treats that are marketed to help slow the progression of dental disease. While some can be fairly effective, they are often high-calorie and can cause significant weight gain if the pet's daily ration of food is not adjusted; we will be happy to tailor a feeding plan for your pet to include dental treats.
If your pet already has accumulated tartar, a dental cleaning under general anesthesia will be needed to remove it. As they age, many pets will need annual dental cleanings to keep tartar buildup at bay. Home dental care can often lengthen the interval between professional cleanings, and immediately following a cleaning is the best time to start a new routine. We will be happy to set you up with pet-safe toothpaste, a finger brush, and instructions on how to acclimate your pet to the brushing process.
A typical dental cleaning involves a full oral exam, ultrasonically scaling the tartar from all surfaces of the teeth (including under the gumline), polishing the teeth, and applying fluoride. We also strongly recommend that all pets have full-mouth dental radiography. Dental radiography can reveal periodontal disease that we are unable to visualize, as a large portion of each tooth lies below the gumline.
All of our dental patients receive an intravenous catheter and fluids while under anesthesia, and a dedicated anesthesia technician monitors their vital signs throughout the procedure.
In some cases, a tooth (or teeth) may need to be extracted due to advanced periodontal disease or fracture of the tooth itself. These conditions can be quite painful, however most pets are adept at hiding their discomfort so you may not even be aware anything is wrong. While extracting a tooth will add to the overall cost of the procedure, leaving a rotten or broken tooth can cause your pet further pain and may lead to infection. In some cases, the extent of periodontal disease is too great to handle in a single visit and a second procedure will be scheduled to finish addressing your pet's dental health.
Some patients require antibiotics prior to or following a dental cleaning. Bacteria from the mouth can potentially enter the bloodstream and cause damage to vital internal structures such as heart valves. If the doctor deems it necessary to prescribe antibiotics for your pet, it is important to follow the instructions, including finishing the full course as directed.
Dr. Gerard Clarke
Dr. Jimmy Emerson
Small Animal Medicine & Surgery
6999 Nashville Street
Ringgold, GA 30736
Ph: (706) 937-7387