Decoding the Pet Dental Exam

pet dental examHave you noticed your pet’s breath lately? Is it less than fresh, so to speak? If so, it is time for a pet dental exam. Bad breath is often the first sign of dental disease, a common but preventable condition in pets.

It is estimated that over 80% of pets over the age of 3 have some form of periodontal disease, whether it’s gingivitis or periodontitis.

Regular dental exams are your first step in evaluating and preventing this disease. But, what exactly is a dental exam, and what does it show?

What Is a Pet Dental Exam?

As with any physical exam, a dental exam will begin with a medical history. Your veterinarian will ask you about any pawing at the mouth, trouble chewing, drooling, or bad breath. All of these signs can indicate that your pet suffers from dental disease.

Next, your veterinarian will examine your pet’s head and neck, checking for any swelling or enlarged lymph nodes. The mouth will then be examined and your veterinarian will check your pet’s teeth and mouth for redness, swelling, or bleeding. These signs can signal gingivitis, a painful condition that results from accumulation of plaque and bacteria at the gumline.

Your veterinarian will evaluate the teeth and look for any cracks or fractures, as well as any loose teeth. They will assess the level of plaque and tartar, and grade your pet’s teeth on those things seen, such as plaque. Plaque and tartar hold bacteria, which can enter your pet’s bloodstream and affect their heart, liver, and kidneys.

As your veterinarian examines your pet’s mouth, they will also look for spots that could be oral cancer. If there is any concern, a biopsy may be recommended.

All of these aspects of the dental exam can generally be performed without sedation. However, professional dental cleaning requires anesthesia. Under general anesthesia, dental x-rays will be taken of any problem areas. X-rays show below the gum line as well as the internal structures of the tooth, including the root and the bone below.

Each tooth will be probed and any recession recorded. Deep pockets will be noted as will any other problems that need to be treated.

How Does My Pet Benefit?

Dental exams can be valuable for pets at any stage of life. As puppy and kitten baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth, your veterinarian can check to make sure adult teeth are coming in normally. Puppy and kitten dental exams during their first visits are wonderful for getting new pets used to ongoing dental exams.

Older pets need regular dental exams, too, to help catch disease early. Early detection is important to prevent and treat dental disease before there is a major problem, saving your pet from painful, infected gums and saving you money.

At-Home Dental Care

After the dental exam, your veterinarian many recommend a dental cleaning. At-home care, such as tooth brushing, dental chews, diets, and rinses, may also be recommended to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Tooth brushing is not as hard as it sounds, and we can show you how during your pet’s dental exam.

At Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital, we look forward to your pet’s next dental exam and to helping you give your pet a lifetime of good oral health! Call us for an appointment or with any questions. We’re here to help.