Tag Archives: dental

Does Brushing Teeth Really Help?

I’d like to share some photos of a success story with you today. A few images will make a bigger impact than tons of text, so let’s get right to it.

This is Macy. Macy’s mom brushes her teeth every day.


Macy’s teeth look -great- because of the attention mom gives them. She won’t need a dental cleaning this year, and if mom keeps up with brushing as much as she does now, she won’t need one next year, either. There’s just a little bit of staining on that big premolar tooth toward the back of her mouth, but there’s no gingivitis, so we can leave that be. Yes, brushing really does make a huge difference for almost all pets!



Congrats, Macy! You’ve got a nice white smile!

Questions about dental care? Ask by leaving a comment!



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Thursday News – Recognizing Dental Disease at Home

I’d like to share a good article on recognizing dental disease and oral pain in your pets.

Connect with The Sacramento Bee’s “Sac Paws” blog.

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Thursday Shopping Ideas

If you’re out shopping during the next two weeks and need a gift for a dog, why not choose something that will help dental health? At the very least, you’ll have a better idea of what’s safe for teeth. (Just watch out for food or flavor ingredients that could set off a reaction in a food-allergy dog.)

The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of treats, toys, and foods that promote good dental health. Take a look at the list here. Choose healthy, tooth-friendly treats for the friends and family on your “Good Dog” list!

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Daily Dental Care — Does It Really Help?

Clients often seem doubtful that brushing their pet’s teeth will actually do any good. I’m going to share a photo today from a patient that has benefitted greatly from having her teeth brushed. This is Abby, a sheltie about 6 years old. She gets her teeth brushed daily. Before the owner started to brush her teeth, there was quite a bit of tartar buildup along with some significant gingivitis. Now, there’s only a tiny bit of tartar on the teeth, and no gingivitis. By spending about 5-7 minutes a day, this owner has improved Abby’s oral health so much that we don’t need to put her under anesthesia to clean her teeth. The time and attention DOES make a difference!


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Complete Oral Health Assessment and Treatment

This week I’d like to show you some of the steps we take when we’re cleaning a dog’s teeth. There’s a ton of stuff that we do to go from nasty to clean. I’m long overdue for showing you how that happens. I only missed taking photos of two parts of the process, so I’ll point that out on the way. I’m sure I can get photos at some point to show you how those sections work. I’ve got plenty to show you today, though.

First and foremost, we’ve prepared our patient for anesthesia. We do our utmost to make anesthesia safe and to guarantee a smooth, good recovery. Anesthesia always has some risk, but even our elderly patients can do extremely well so long as we’re careful and select the right medications along the way. Our photos will start with the patient already under.

(The initial step is to examine the entire oral cavity. We chart every single abnormality on every single tooth. We also note any problems on lips, gums, cheeks, and tongue. The amount of tartar/calculus is noted; the degree of gingivitis is, too. We then take radiographs (x-rays) of all of the teeth. This is an essential step. Up to 40% of dental disease is found under/above the gum line. Without the radiographs, there’s no way for us to completely assess the patient’s dental health. Radiographs can reveal damaged teeth, cracked roots, cavity-like lesions, and more.

The first big step is to clean off all of the tartar. The patient below didn’t have a lot of heavy buildup. You can still see the brown gunk on the teeth. The series of photos shows how we use our ultrasonic scaler to blast the tartar and plaque off the teeth. This handheld pen-like tool vibrates at the curved metal tip. Water is sprayed to keep the tooth from overheating. The vibrations and a heavy spray of water clean the tartar and plaque off the teeth.

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We then use some pink stuff called disclosing solution to show us where we’ve missed some plaque. The pink stuff stains plaque so we can see it. A touch-up is done to ensure that the teeth are fully clean.

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In the next photo, you can see the clean teeth. The tooth at the “top” (which is actually way back on this dog’s lower left jaw), you can see the extreme root exposure of that tooth. We didn’t clean that one because it needs to be removed. The radiograph revealed that there was no bone surrounding the root, which meant the tooth was loose in the socket. There was also evidence of an abscess around the very tip of the root.

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We use special tools called elevators to help us pry a tooth out. This one was so diseased and damaged that I didn’t have to do a lot of work to get it out. The elevator is sort of like a spade shovel that’s sharp all around the edge. They come in different sizes and shapes, each having a niche or nook or cranny it’s designed to fit into to help you get the tooth out.

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Once removed, you can see that that tooth (2nd molar) has 2 big roots. Notice the brown garbage stuck way down on the smaller root. Gross!!

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We have to sew up the socket in dogs and cats to ensure proper healing. That’s what I’m doing here.

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This next tooth is on the upper right (the dog’s upper right). That metal probe is sticking through from one side to the other in a space between the roots. That’s not supposed to happen! Periodontal disease has damaged the tooth and the bone and gums in that area, allowing a hole to form. It’s called a furcation. The radiograph showed that this tooth didn’t have much bone loss and that the roots were healthy. I decided to try to save the tooth.

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Here, I’m injecting a special antibiotic-releasing gel into the furcation. The gel solidifies when it gets wet. It will remain in that space for some time, allowing the gums to (hopefully) re-adhere to the tooth root as they heal. We’ll have to take radiographs and examine that tooth again in a year.

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Once I’m done with whatever extractions and treatments are needed, we polish the teeth. This is the same step that your dental hygienist takes when polishing your teeth.

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We also do a fluoride treatment. That looks like white foam in the dog’s mouth. I missed a picture of that, I’m afraid. Just picture hair mousse squirted into a sleeping dog’s mouth and you’ll get the picture.

Patients are recovered from anesthesia. They get properly strong pain medication if needed. Sometimes we also prescribe antibiotics. From there, patients typically have very short healing times (7-10 days) and are eating fine within a day or two of the procedure. It’s remarkable how fast they heal!

That’s the basic rundown on a dental. I’ll catch up the radiographs and charting and fluoride foam soon.

Be sure to ask questions! 🙂

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Introduction to Dental Care Part 3 – Professional Work

Last week I covered home care for your pets. This week, I’ll delve into the work we do on the hospital side when a pet needs something more than brushing, chewing, or rinsing.

There are going to be pictures of nasty, gross, rotten teeth in this post. I’ve kept them all off the first page so that nobody is rudely surprised when they check in to the blog. If you’re interested in just the text, please leave a comment and I will send you the post without the photos.

The tl;dr version is this: Periodontal disease is a progressively worsening condition that creates chronic pain and can damage other organs, ultimately resulting in tooth loss and a shorter lifespan. There is a point at which periodontal disease can only be dealt with surgically. At that point, it’s more like a salvage procedure in which we try to save as many teeth as possible.

I will start by describing the 4 stages of periodontal disease. Then I’ll show a couple of interesting pictures that display common dental pathology. Lastly, I’ll cover the procedure we follow for a Complete Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT).

Read on for the rest…

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Introduction to Dental Care Part 2 – Oral Care at Home

Last week I covered basic dental anatomy in dogs and cats. I also said that this week’s post would cover keeping teeth healthy, so that’s what we’ll cover today. I’ll mostly be showing dogs with the audiovisual information I have today. Cat people, it still applies! I will spend time next week talking about how dogs and cats differ in their dental health. For now, you can follow all of the same information and techniques for both.

A thorough oral exam is part of your pet’s routine examinations at Pet Authority. We also offer free Dental Examinations so that we can provide you with accurate information about the status of your pet’s oral health. We make recommendations for how to care for your pet based on the oral exam.

Keeping your pet’s teeth healthy can be accomplished in many ways. Not every pet will allow or accept all of these methods. I’ll rank them in order from most to “least” effective. Just try to remember that doing ANYTHING to promote good oral health is beneficial to your pet.

Brushing Is Best

Just as with our own oral health, brushing your pet’s teeth DAILY is the most effective way to keep the teeth healthy. Most dogs will allow you to brush their teeth. Some cats will, too. I’ll admit that my own cat won’t let me, but Dr. Williams’ cats allow her to.

The basic steps for teaching your pet to have his or her teeth brushed are:

Step 1
• Start by dipping a finger in a bit of pet toothpaste.
• Rub this finger gently over your pet’s gums and one or two teeth.
• Repeat until your pet seems fairly comfortable with this activity.

Step 2
• Gradually, introduce a gauze-covered finger or a q-tip and gently scrub the teeth with a circular motion.

Step 3
• Then, you can begin to use a toothbrush, either an ultra-soft model designed for people or a
special pet tooth-brush or finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering with a small brush built in at its tip.

Step 4
• Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of pet toothpaste in liquid or paste
form. Most of these contain chlorhexidine or stannous fluoride – ask your veterinarian for his
recommendations. Don’t use human toothpaste, as it can upset your pet’s stomach. Your vet may
also advise the use of an antiseptic spray or rinse after brushing.

Some pets will require many days or weeks at each step before they’re willing to cooperate fully. It takes patience and persistence. Try to make it a fun experience with lots of praise and even some treats. Here’s a video that shows how to brush a pet’s teeth.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYG2hmoC%5D

There are a wide variety of toothpastes out there to choose from. We prefer and stock CET pet toothpaste. It contains an enzyme system that helps to dissolve the plaque film that is the beginning of dental disease. We have several flavors of CET Paste at the hospital: Vanilla Mint, Poultry (this is a favorite), Malt, Beef, and Seafood.
There are numerous toothbrushes out there for pets. The most important thing is to make sure that the brush has soft bristles.

The last comment on brushing is important for your pet’s comfort. If your dog or cat’s teeth look like the photo below, brushing may be painful and cause bleeding from the gums. Your pet will most likely require an anesthetized oral assessment and cleaning/treatment before you can begin brushing. Be kind to your pet and don’t force the issue of brushing if you’re getting too much resistance.
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Chews and rinses are next…

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Introduction to Dental Care – Learning Anatomy

I’m going to break up the Dental Care topic into a few posts. I plan to cover the anatomy first, then we’ll move on to keeping teeth healthy. I’ll finish with photos and descriptions of how we perform a dental cleaning. Dental cleanings are now called “COHAT”s — Complete Oral Health Assessment and Treatment.

We’ll start today with Anatomy. Some of the photos are a link to a larger size picture, which is supposed to open in a new window. (Bear with me as I sort out this blog interface.)


This is a Bull Terrier with a pretty normal, healthy mouth. There’s a little bit of tartar (calculus) buildup on the rear upper tooth — it’s a tan/yellow color near the gumline. Notice how the teeth are arranged in a row like a picket fence. On the far side of the upper jaw, you can see that those big rear teeth also have a flat area that’s used for grinding food. The biggest tooth on the upper and lower jaw meet when a dog chews, and those are the main teeth a dog needs to handle dry food.

There is a numbering system for the teeth that we use when we note things in the medical record or on a dental cleaning report. Each tooth has a number, which is much clearer than trying to say “The 4th tooth on the right side.” It’s too confusing to figure out if someone means their right, or the dog’s right, or what. If anyone is interested in that level of detail, there’s a chart right here. You’re looking nose-to-nose with the dog/cat in that picture.

I want to include a picture of a brachycephalic breed’s skull just for comparison. Brachycephalics are dogs like Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Bulldogs, Pugs, and so on. “Brachy” means “short.” This skull is actually not too bad. Many of the brachycephalic breeds we see have teeth that are rotated and stacked in almost sideways. This dog has a pretty impressive underbite.


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