Dr. Kelley Wallace

Catawba Heights Animal Hospital - Contact Us

How does dental health impact overall my dog's health?

Bad teeth can lead to heart issues like myocarditis, which is an infection of the heart. The bacteria can enter the blood and go to the valves of the heart and cause heart disease. It's very difficult to get rid of that bacteria once it goes there. It can also go to the kidneys, it can affect just your overall well-being and health because bad teeth hurt. Pets aren't as happy, they're not eating as well, they can be grumpy because of the pain. So overall, like with us, when we have teeth that are hurting us, it can affect the whole body.

What do you recommend for a pet's dental care at home?

There are several things we recommend. There are dental chews, they have an enzyme on them that helps break down the plaque before it builds up into tartar, they're usually given once a day to every other day. There are dental treats as well. We do recommend toothbrushing if your pet will allow it. I typically recommend the finger brush because you can feel and get in there much easier than a toothbrush. Recommend pet-safe toothpaste made for a dog or infant toothpaste, nothing with fluoride in it because they could swallow it. They also have tooth wipes and pads. Those aren't as effective, but it's better than nothing.

What are some signs and symptoms of dental disease in dogs?

The biggest sign I see is what we call halitosis or bad breath. These dogs have some pretty rank breath. When they breathe in your face, you're like, oh, that stinks. They can be drooling a lot, you may see blood tinge drool. They may eat on one side, they may drop food while they're eating, they can be irritable. You can even see swellings under the eye if they have a tooth root abscess in this upper maxillary area.

What is the average age for the first dental for large breed dogs and small breed dogs?

The average age for the first dental for large breed dogs is three. The average age for small breed dogs is one year of age. It's not uncommon for us to be recommending dental cleanings on small breed dogs by a year of age because genetically they're just predisposed to tartar buildup and bad teeth at a much younger age than, say, your large breed dogs.

What are some common dental diseases in dogs?

Some common dental diseases in dogs are gingivitis, dental tartar, and gum recession. We can also have it in certain breeds like your brachycephalics, bulldogs, boxers, and shih tzus, they're known for gum proliferation to where they overproduce gum material, and it's called epulis and sometimes it can even cover the teeth and become a hazard when they eat because they'll chew on it.

What is the process of dental cleaning for dogs?

We do x-rays with all of our dental cleanings because the majority of dental issues you cannot see with the naked eye. They are below the gum line. Every pet, every time we do a dental cleaning, gets x-rays of all the teeth, and based on that, x-rays determine what we will and will not be pulling. We are looking for root exposure, bone loss, abscesses, holes in the teeth, and broken teeth. You can even have retained roots, which is where the white part of the tooth that you can see is gone, but the root is still attached under the gum lines. It's causing pain and you can't see those. You can only see those with x-ray.

How often should a dog's teeth be checked and cleaned?

Your dog's teeth should be checked at least once a year. Most dogs need a dental cleaning every one to three years, depending on the breed and lifestyle. It is not uncommon for small breed dogs to need a dental every six months to a year, which can get expensive, but getting those teeth cleaned and pulling the bad teeth will help the dog, will help your pet's life in the long run. They'll be healthier, happier, and those teeth that we're cleaning and keeping will last longer than if we didn't do the cleanings.

What does a professional cleaning require?

A professional cleaning does require full sedation as the pets won't sit there and say, ah, unless you get in there and clean. We scrape off all the tartar by hand like they do when you're at the dentist. We probe all the pockets. We take full mouth x-rays and then we polish and fluoride the teeth. So, unfortunately, they do have to undergo anesthesia. We do require blood work pre-op to make sure it's safe for your pets to handle anesthesia. We do an exam, making sure their heart and lungs sound good. The majority of our dental cleanings take less than 30 minutes to do with extraction. Sometimes it can get upwards of an hour if we have to extract a lot of teeth, but we're not talking about an extensive long procedure. Most of the pets are up and awake within 30 minutes of us starting our dental if their teeth are nice and healthy and it's just removing of tartar.

What happens when a dog has teeth pulled?

When your dog has teeth pulled, you might go home with special instructions because there'll be stitches in the mouth. Those stitches will dissolve over the next four to six weeks. Your pet will need to be on a soft food diet so it doesn't hurt those incisions. Pain medicine and antibiotics will be sent home too. And pain control is a top priority for us. So they're given pain medicine before anesthesia starts. And then when I'm in there, if I have to pull teeth, I block the nerves so their mouth is numb in those areas for six to eight hours afterward, and then we send them home with pain medicine to help control their pain for the next few days.

If you have any other questions, please give us a call at (704) 827-0616. You can also email us at [email protected] and we will get back to you as soon as we are able. Don't forget to follow us on social media: Facebook and Instagram