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Dentistry dog

Dental pain is a common issue in dogs and cats and - after vaccinations - the most common reason pet owners visit the vet. But how can dental problems in a pet be recognised and when is it necessary to see a specialised veterinary dentist?

Oral hygiene in dogs is important from the outset

It is important for owners to ensure their pet’s regular and thorough oral hygiene. As many as 85 % of dogs suffer from dental tartar, caused by plaque, which is composed of ingredients from saliva, bacteria and food remnants and which finally mineralises to become tartar. This in turn leads to loosening of the periodontium with atrophy of the bone and ultimate tooth loss. This is called periodontitis. It is the commonest disease in dogs. It is therefore necessary to accustom even young animals to routine oral care.

You should have your pet’s dental status examined annually by your vet during a check-up or vaccination. A general veterinary practice can examine for periodontitis, remove tartar and polish the teeth. If there are any dental abnormalities that require further diagnosis or treatment, the vet will refer your animal to a specialist veterinary dentist.

Recognising toothache in dogs

If your dog has toothache or other tooth problems, you should bring it to the vet. Bad breath is usually noticed first, which arises from sulphurous gases produced during bacterial protein breakdown. The covering of the tooth root can be permanently destroyed by the progressive inflammation. Another alarm signal frequently reported by veterinary dentists is excessive salivation. Problems with eating despite a good appetite and chewing on one side also indicate dental symptoms. These pains are usually caused by inflamed gums, receding gums and exposed tooth necks.

Dogs at the dentist – frequent problems

Small dogs visit the veterinary dentist more often than large breeds. Often the milk teeth do not fall out correctly and they have a greater tendency generally to tartar, periodontitis and associated premature tooth loss. If the regular vet can no longer solve the problems, he will recommend bringing the dogs to a dentist. Severe tartar can cause systemic diseases in your dog due to leaching of bacteria and inflammatory substances. Thus, the heart can be affected and permanently damaged, as well as the liver, kidney or glucose metabolism.

In such cases, the dentist cleans the dog’s teeth under anaesthetic. During tooth cleaning in dogs and cats, we recommend an intraoral dental X-ray as this also shows the root regions of the teeth, where the whole extent of the changes may often be apparent for the first time. 

Tooth misalignment or broken tooth crowns are another frequent reason for attending a veterinary dentist.

Who may work as a veterinary dentist?

Veterinary dentistry is not a separate branch of study in the field of veterinary medicine. However, an increasing number of veterinary surgeons are training further in this area. Such additional qualifications exist for many areas of veterinary medicine. A few vets are recognised especially as dentists for animals with the title ""Additional designation in veterinary dentistry"", which means that they are fully familiar with the entire spectrum of dental disease in animals, from tooth fracture to dental misalignment to correction of overbite or underbite as well as tooth preservation. However, vets without that title can also concentrate on working in the area of animal dentistry and be outstanding in this area.

When is it necessary to go to the animal dentist?

There isn’t a dentist for dogs in every city. You don’t have to go to an expert to have tartar removed. Every veterinary practice usually has the equipment for this though an anaesthetic is always needed. In addition, the teeth should always be polished after tartar removal. A complex problem requires a trip to a vet who specialises in teeth, however. Your first point of contact is your regular vet.

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