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September, 2017

October is Pet Dental Month at Sandy Animal Clinic

 September 30th, 2017

Did you know that 80% of dogs and cats have some form of dental disease by 3 years of age.  In order to help keep those teeth healthy, leading to a healthy happy life, Sandy Animal Clinic is honoring $55 off all dental cleanings during the month of October.

To schedule a pet dental exam

call 503-668-4139


Dental Disease in Dogs

1How common is dental disease in dogs?

Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. Over 80% of dogs over the age of three have active dental disease.

Few dogs show obvious signs of dental disease, so it’s up to the dog’s family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and often painful condition.

 “Over 80% of dogs over the age of
three have active dental disease.”

Are dental problems the same in pets and people?

No. In people, the most common problem is tooth decay. It’s caused by the loss of calcium from the tooth’s enamel, resulting in painful, infected cavities (caries). In dogs, tooth decay is rare. The most common dental problems seen in dogs are:

  • periodontal diseases, and
  • fractured teeth.



What are periodontal diseases?

Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Periodontal diseases occur when the accumulation of plaque and tartar cause either periodontal pockets or gum recession  around the tooth’s attachment. Left untreated, the infection often spreads deeper into the tooth socket, destroying the bone.

“Periodontal disease is a term used to describe
inflammation or infection of the tissues
surrounding the tooth.”

How does tartar form and why is it a problem?

6The mouth is home to thousands of bacteria. As these bacteria multiply on the tooth’s surface, they form an invisible layer called plaque or biofilm. Some of this plaque is removed naturally by the dog’s tongue and chewing habits.

If allowed to remain on the tooth’s surface, plaque thickens, becomes mineralized  and creates tartar. This tartar accumulates above and below the gum line leading to inflammation (gingivitis) and further accumulation of plaque which leads to periodontal diseases.

Can plaque and tartar be prevented?

The rate at which plaque becomes mineralized will be much quicker in some dogs than in others.

The best way to prevent tartar build-up is through daily tooth brushing using canine toothpaste that is specifically designed to be swallowed. Unfortunately, even though it is the best form of plaque control, most dog owners do not brush their dog’s teeth daily.

Special dog chew toys and treats may also help reduce or delay plaque and tartar build-up. Some pet foods have been specifically formulated as dental diets that mechanically and/or chemically assist in plaque removal. Water additives are also available.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council evaluates dental products for effectiveness. You can visit their website ( for a list of plaque control products.

“The best way to prevent tartar build-up is
through daily tooth brushing using canine
toothpaste that is specifically
designed to be swallowed.”

Will feeding dry food remove tartar?

Pet food manufacturers have recently developed new dental diets that can help reduce the formation of plaque and tartar in your dog. Once tartar has formed, however, professional scaling and polishing under general anesthesia will be needed.

What do broken, chipped or fractured teeth look like in dogs?

The center of the tooth, called pulp, is covered by hard dentin and even harder enamel. Fractures either expose sensitive dentin, termed uncomplicated fractures, or the pulp which contains nerves and blood vessels, termed complicated fractures.


What causes fractured teeth in dogs?

Most tooth fractures occur when dogs chew on objects that are too hard, like ice cubes, bones, nylon chews, antlers and horse hoofs. Any chew toy or dental treat fed to a dog should bend and “give” upon compression.

What is done to treat fractured dog teeth?

If the pulp is exposed, root canal therapy or extraction are the treatment options.  Leaving the tooth without treatment is not a good idea as infection will have direct entry into your dog.

With gentleness, patience and perseverance you can provide the oral care they need to prevent dental disease.


Dental Cleaning in Dogs

Gingivitis of the left upper fourth premolarWhat is involved with a professional teeth cleaning visit for my dog?

When rough tartar accumulates on tooth surfaces and touches the gum line it’s time for a professional oral assessment, treatment, and prevention visit. This visit will include a thorough dental examination, teeth cleaning, and polishing to remove the tartar and invisible plaque from all of the tooth surfaces.

Your veterinarian may perform pre-anesthetic blood tests to ensure that kidney and liver function are satisfactory for anesthesia, as well as an evaluation of the heart and abdomen if needed.

What happens during the exam?

For proper dental care your dog will be placed under general anesthesia. Once your dog is under general anesthesia, your veterinarian and veterinary assistants will thoroughly examine the mouth, noting abnormalities in the medical record. A dental probe will be used to evaluate gum bleeding and periodontal pockets where food can accumulate if not cared for.

When periodontal disease is advanced, it may not be possible to save the badly affected teeth, which may need to be extracted.

“For proper dental care your dog
will be placed under general anesthesia.”

Moderate stomatitis in a Carin TerrierHow are my dog’s teeth cleaned?

After examination, tooth scaling will be performed, using both hand and ultrasonic scalers to remove tartar above and below the gum line. The tartar below the gum line causes the most significant periodontal disease, so it is important that it be thoroughly removed.

After scaling, the teeth are polished to remove microscopic scratches and decrease the rate of Moderate stomatitis in a Carin Terriersubsequent plaque build-up. Special applications such as fluoride, antibiotic preparations and cleaning compounds may be used to decrease tooth sensitivity, strengthen enamel, treat bacterial infection and reduce future plaque accumulation.

The procedures your dog may require will be discussed with you before her dental cleaning. Since it can be difficult to predict the extent of dental disease in advance of the procedure, it is imperative that your veterinarian be able to reach you during the procedure to discuss any additional treatment that may be necessary.

Why can’t I just remove the tartar and plaque with a human dental scaler?

Although you can remove the accumulated tartar above the gum line, in dogs that are extremely co-operative, there are three problems with doing this. First, only the visible tartar above the gum line is removed, leaving the plaque and tartar below the gum line which will continue to cause periodontal problems. Second, it’s neither possible nor safe to clean the inner surfaces of the teeth properly in a conscious dog. Third, the use of any instrument on the tooth enamel will cause microscopic scratches on the surface and will ultimately damage the tooth surface, leading to further disease – this is the reason your dental hygienist always polishes your teeth after removing tartar with dental instruments.

Severe stomatitis in lower jaw, affecting the tongueDo I have to make an appointment for my dog to have a dental scaling and polishing?

Yes. Your veterinarian will perform pre-anesthetic tests and examine your pet for underlying disorders prior to the procedure, and they may determine that antibiotic treatment should be prescribed in advance.

How can I prevent tartar accumulation after the procedure?

Plaque and tartar begin forming in as little as six hours after your dog’s dental cleaning. A home dental care program including regular tooth brushing is a must. Your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions on how to brush or rinse your dog’s teeth.

“Plaque and tartar begin forming in as little
as six hours afteryour dog’s dental
cleaning. A home dental care program
including regular tooth brushing is a must.”

Can I use human toothpaste?

Gingivitis resolved after ultrasonic cleaning and daily plaque controlAbsolutely not. Human dentifrice or toothpaste should never be used in dogs. Human teeth cleaning detergents contain ingredients that are not intended to be swallowed and can cause internal problems if they are swallowed. Human products also commonly contain higher levels of salt which can be a problem for some dogs.

You should also avoid using baking soda to clean your dog’s teeth. Baking soda has a high alkaline content and, if swallowed, it can upset the acid balance in the stomach and digestive tract. In addition, baking soda does not taste good, which may cause your dog to be uncooperative when you try to brush her teeth.

Why is pet toothpaste recommended?

Stomatitis resolved after full mouth extractionNumerous pet toothpastes are non-foaming, safe to be swallowed and available in flavors that are appealing to dogs including poultry, beef, malt and mint. If you use a product that tastes good, your dog will be more likely to enjoy the whole experience.

In addition to the pleasant taste, many of these doggy toothpastes contain enzymes that are designed to help break down plaque chemically, which reduces the time you need to actually spend brushing your dog’s teeth.


Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP
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