Dental Problems can be Deadly for Pets. Cleaning your pet’s teeth is a great way to save yourself from smelling horrendous pet breath. But, dental cleanings also save some pets from serious heart disease and occasionally, you might hear how dental procedures saved a pet’s life! Smokey did not feel well. The young Golden Retriever mix missed her family and was completely confused by her surroundings. Smokey had never been confined in a cage, nor had she ever been somewhere with such strange smells and noisy neighbors. On top of everything, her mouth hurt terribly!
At this city shelter, the staff realized Smokey’s attitude was not normal for her breed. Investigating, they found the crowns of her four canine teeth had been literally cut off at the gum line! Known as crown amputation, some people have used this practice as a means to disarm a dog’s primary defense mechanism of biting. Without large canine teeth, the severity of bite wounds is supposedly reduced. But, the use of bolt cutters or wire snips to cut the teeth at the gum line and the lack of anesthetics or sterile technique often leads to major complications. Veterinary organizations, including the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) have expressed serious concern with this painful practice.
These dogs are so painful and prone to nipping (as a compensation mechanism) that shelters will often euthanize these dogs without seeking medical care. For Smokey, her condition became a life or death situation! Fortunately, a Golden Retriever Rescue heard of Smokey’s plight and sought to find a solution that would not only save her life, but free her from pain as well.
Like our teeth, dogs have an inner chamber of the tooth known as the pulp cavity. This hollow cavity (or chamber) contains the blood and nerve supply of the tooth. Anyone who has ever broken a tooth can surely empathize with the pain she was feeling. To make matters worse, Smokey was at high risk for developing serious infections of the gums, the nerve or even the underlying jaw bones. The rescue teamed up with a veterinarian and they went to work. According Smokey’s case was complicated, and simple extraction of the four broken teeth was not an option. The canine teeth of a dog extend well below the gum line and often are closely associated with the jaw bone. Extracting these teeth has the potential for causing serious jaw damage, which needs to be avoided.
By performing root canals, they were able to save the roots of the four teeth. After removing the vital tissue from within the pulp cavity, they used restorative materials to cap off the roots and prevent any potential infections. Sadly, since the crowns had been cut at the gum line, they weren’t able to place any artificial crowns or restore the actual tooth. The good news is that Smokey is alive and doing well at her new home. Her dental surgery and post-operative care actually stopped the pain and her “forever” family says that she has adjusted well to her new life.
Thankfully, Smokey’s type of trauma is not extremely common, but millions of pets do suffer from serious dental disease. These pets may also exhibit behavioral changes due to their pain. Unfortunately many of these pets are relinquished to rescues or even euthanized. Your pet doesn’t have to suffer from dental disease and you don’t have to tolerate “doggy breath”. Making a dental plan with your veterinarian will not only prevent dental disease, but may stop other health problems as well. The first step is to have your veterinarian do a complete oral exam on your pet. Note any areas of excessive tartar build-up and any other concerns, such as fractured teeth, bleeding gums or ulcerations in the mouth.
Next, if appropriate, schedule a complete dental cleaning with your veterinarian. Cleaning will remove the tartar and plaque, reducing bacteria that cause serious illnesses, such as heart disease. Using digital x-rays allows the veterinarian to see under the gum line, a crucial step in preventing future dental problems.
After the cleaning, your veterinarian may apply a barrier sealant to help repel plaque-causing bacteria. This high tech – low cost – sealant gel is easy to continue at home and will help prevent further build up of plaque and tartar. Home care is a vital part of maintaining your pet’s dental health. From routine brushing to special water additives and chew toys, your veterinarian can help make caring for your pet’s teeth easier. Some foods are even designed to help remove plaque build-up! The best news? These products not only remove plaque, but help to minimize bad breath. For some pets, they just might be lifesavers as well.