When is my cat ready for a dental?

Disease:  Just as people have cavities, need root canals and lose teeth, pets can have serious dental problems.  These problems can cause weight loss, chronic pain, decrease in their quality of life and lead to secondary diseases such as heart, kidney or liver diseases.  Even with such long-term health concerns, your pet could have severe dental health problems, and with out careful monitoring, could go completely unnoticed. 


In as little as three years of age, dogs and cats can form cavities, get tooth root infections, have infections of the gums (periodontal disease) and have teeth weaken.  As tartar builds up, it serves a great source of bacteria that can cause infection both in your pet's teeth but also can seed and cause infection in the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs.  When your pet begins to have a severe infection of these roots, the sinus becomes infected and fills with pus and debris, causing the following signs:


  • Bad breath
  • Focal facial swelling around eye and cheek area
  • A swelling with an area of pussy drainage
  • Salivating
  • Inability to eat hard food or snacks or not able to eat at all
  • Eating on only one side of the mouth
  • Rolling food from one part of the mouth to the other
  • Pain on palpation of tooth

However, the presence of dental tartar and reddening of the gums is sometimes enough to suggest that your pet may need a dental cleaning.

Cause of Disease:  Over time , the teeth begin to wear down and become irritated as dogs anc cats eat their diets.  Dental tartar and plaque, which is rich in bacteria, can build up and cause moderate to severe swelling and infections of the gums (gingivitis).  As the gums weaken, bacteria can migrate down into the tooth root causing pain, infection and loosening the tooth.

Diagnosis:  To make sure your pet and their teeth are in excellent health your veterinarian may suggests:

  • Diagnostic Blood Work:  A complete blood count and chemistry will help your veterinarian to determine if there is infection, disease of the kidney, liver, pancreas or metabolic disease present.
  • X-Rays:  Both dental and skull s-ray will help your veterinarian determine that teeth are affected and if any of the sourrounding bone is also showing change.

Treatment:  Based on the severity of dental disease and the weakness of the tooth there are many possible treatments:

  • Ultrasonic cleaning and polishing:  A thorough cleaning and polishing are very important every 6-12 months once your pet reaches 2-3 years of age.  This treatment allows your veterinarian to evaluate the teeth and clean away the plaque and tartar, and reduce the bacterial load that your pet's body must fight off.
  • Perceutical treatments:  If there are deep pockets within the gums around your pet's teeth, your veterinarian may suggest filling these areas with a long acting antibiotic polymer that helps to clear up infection and decrease the pocket size.
  • A root canal and crown:  In cases where a large tooth, such as a canine or large molar or premolar tooth is infected or damaged, your veterinarian may suggest a root canal and a crown.  This endodontic procedure can be less traumatic and invasive to the tissue while maintaining a functional non-painful tooth.  The procedure is a three-step process in which the centre - sensitive part of the tooth (tooth pulp) is drilled and removed.  Then the area is disinfected and dried and a disinfectant sealer is applied.  Then the tooth surface is restored with a firm hard smooth material.

Your veterinarian may suggest combinations of diagnostic tests or other tests not listed dependent on how your animal presents in physical examination, out come of early diagnostics and response to treatment.

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