Cat Dentistry

Maintaining a cat’s dental health is extremely important and cats are susceptible to all of the same dental problems as dogs. There are other feline specific dental diseases that cat owners should be aware of including feline stomatitis and feline tooth resporption. In addition to home dental care, it is important for cats to have regular veterinary dental cleanings and exams to assure that their teeth and mouth remain healthy and without disease. Board certified vet dentists can provide the highest level of dental care for cats.

Humane Society Vet Dental Training

Shelter Pets Need Dental Care Too!

Most of us probably don’t realize the extent of care that humane societies across the country provide to the pets they shelter. An animal shelter really is much more than just food and a warm bed for these pets, but they also receive veterinary care so that they are healthy for families who want to take them home. More and more, humane societies are incorporating pet dental care into an animal’s care plan prior to adoption.

Dr. Woodward at Animal Dental Care in Colorado recently provided a free two day dental training course to humane societies across Colorado. These veterinarians and vet techs received extensive training that gave them the skills they need to provide proper dental care to their animals, improving their health and ultimately improving their ability to find these pets their forever homes. Watch the video below for more from Dr. Woodward about why he wanted to offer this course.

Why dental care for a dog or cat in need of adoption? First, consider that more often that not an animal in a shelter has probably not had any dental care over its lifetime. This means there could be both extensive dental disease, but also significant dental pain for the pet. Imagine the pain and discomfort in your own mouth if you were to go years without any oral health care at home or from a dentist. In the case of animals, they can’t tell you about their pain and so they suffer in silence. Humane societies who have the proper training can now provide this care at the shelter and vastly improve an animal’s quality of life.

Secondly, a pet who has had a full veterinary dental cleaning and oral exam, is very welcome news to a family looking to adopt. Plus, animals who are not in pain due to untreated oral disease will have a far easier time adapting to a new family and environment. In fact, Dr. Woodward says, “I did a similar training for the Toronto Humane Society a couple of years ago. They reported to me that since they’ve begun providing full dental care to animals prior to adoption, their rate of animals being returned to the shelter have dropped.”

The fact of the matter is dental care is a vital part of pet health and those who don’t have proper dental care are very often silently suffering in pain.  Pet’s who are in shelters deserve the same level of care and when an animal is health and without pain, they are certainly going to be more loving, happier and able to make that connection with a family who can be their forever home.



Love Your Pet’s Teeth

petdentalhealth monthFebruary, it’s that time of year when love is in the air and we take extra time to make our loved ones feel extra special. And we know you love your furry family members just the same, that’s why February is Pet Dental Health Month, to help you remember to love your pet’s teeth too!

Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition among dogs and cats, but the good news is with annual veterinary dental cleanings and oral exams, it’s entirely preventable! A proper veterinary dental cleaning involves a comprehensive oral exam, veterinary dental x-rays and veterinary dental cleaning under anesthesia. This level of care assures that plaque can be removed from beneath the gumline, where periodontal disease begins. Veterinary dental x-rays also provide a full picture of your pet’s mouth so that any disease or damage can be identified early, when it is much easier and less expensive to treat.

It may seem like as long as your pet’s teeth look ok and they don’t have horrible breath, they don’t need any dental care. But, periodontal disease silently causes disease and damage beneath your pet’s gumline and by the time there are visible signs of bad teeth or bad breath, your pet is in pain and treatment will involve extensive teeth extractions and often bone grafting.

It’s also important to know that anesthesia free dental cleanings or scalings offered by groomers or lay people are NOT a replacement for veterinary dental cleanings. This is a recent trend, which tries to convince pet owners that they can have their pet’s teeth cleaned without needing to go to their vet or have their put under anesthesia. Don’t fall prey to this risky practice. While it may seem cheaper and safer, essentially these providers a merely scraping your pet’s teeth and leading you to believe your pet is healthy, while severe periodontal disease may be present beneath the gumline. And, in addition to providing no benefit to your pet, imagine the process of being restrained while having your teeth scraped – this is certainly a very frightening and painful experience for your pet.

Need evidence of risks of anesthesia free dental care? Colorado vet dentist Dr. Woodward, DAVDC, recently treated a dog, who after years of anesthesia free dental cleanings, ended up with such severe bone loss, 16 teeth required extraction.

We all love our pets and want them to be happy and healthy. Taking them in for a veterinary dental cleaning every year is an important part of their health. Over the long term this care will prevent costly treatments down the road and more importantly will help assure that throughout their life, they have a healthy, pain free mouth.

AVDC Annual Veterinary Dental Forum

Each of the veterinary dental specialists found here is board certified by the Americal Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). AVDC board certification is the highest level of certification in veterinary dentistry, meaning each specialist is widely experienced and is a top expert in veterinary dentistry.

Each year the AVDC holds a veterinary dental forum, where our veterinary dentists participate, lecture, present papers, teach wet labs to further the field of veterinary dentistry and mission to promote optimal pet dental health.

Our group of board certified veterinary dentists is committed to our field of specialty and again looks forward to participating in the AVDC Veterinary Dental Forum, where we can share techniques, best practices and offer educational opportunities to veterinary doctors and veterinary professionals across the US.

Some of the veterinary dentistry topics being presented or taught by our board certified veterinary dentists include:

  • Pet Tooth Restorations
  • Pet Crown Preparations
  • Pet Endodontics
  • Canine Extractions
  • Proper Therapy of Fractured Pet Teeth
  • Feline Extractions
  • Veterinary Radiology
  • Treatment Options for Base Narrow Canines

On Sunday, Oct. 6, 12:30-1:30 p.m. (CST) some of our veterinary dentists will hold a live chat on Twitter from the AVDC forum. Use #vetdentistchat to participate or ask your pet dental health question.



Yes, Pets Do Get Periodontal Disease

It may come as a surprise, but periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in adult dogs and cats. Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria from the dog or cat’s mouth form on the teeth in a plaque. The plaque makes its way under the gumline and sets in motion a vicious cycle, which, if left undetected and untreated can eventually lead to tooth loss.

Dog jaw fracture due to periodontal disease

X-ray showing jaw fracture due to advanced periodontal disease.

The process is described by California Veterinary Dentist, Dr. Brook Niemiec, DAVDC. “The bacteria in the plaque beneath the gum line will secrete toxins. These toxins damage the periodontal tissues and can decrease the attachment. However, the bacteria will also elicit an inflammatory response from the animal’s gingival tissues. White blood cells and other inflammatory mediators will leak out of the periodontal tissues and into the periodontal space (between the gum or bone and the tooth). The white blood cells will release their enzymes to destroy the bacterial invaders, but will also damage the attachment of the tooth. As the disease progresses, the pocket will get deeper and deeper. This will weaken the bone in the area, and if it is in the lower jaw it can weaken it to the point of causing a  fracture. The end stage of this disease is tooth loss, however the disease has caused pain and problems for your pet well before this.” Continue reading “Yes, Pets Do Get Periodontal Disease” »

Treating Tripper’s Chronic Oral Disease

Treating Cat Oral Disease - Houston Vet DentistTripper the cat was initially referred to Dr. Boyd at Veterinary Dental Services & Oral Surgery in Houston, for full mouth extractions to treat chronic periodontal disease, feline tooth resorption, gingival hyperplasia and oral pain.

Tripper’s family brought him to Veterinary Dental Services & Oral Surgery to have him evaluated and treated to save some of his teeth if possible. Dr. Boyd gave Tripper a thorough oral and dental evaluation under anesthesia that included full mouth vet dental x-rays, teeth cleaning, gingivectomy, extractions and periodontal treatment.

Two weeks post treatment Tripper had responded well to treatment and his periodontal disease had improved. Dr. Boyd scheduled Tripper for a two month re-evaluation appointment and recommended complete cat home dental care protocol using CET toothpaste and Biotene.

Feline Dental DiseaseUnfortunately at the two month evaluation Tripper’s condition was worse and he was developing inflammation of the gingiva and mucosa in the back of his mouth. Home care was difficult and Tripper was uncomfortable and in pain. Dr. Boyd recommended full extractions of all of Tripper’s remaining teeth as the best treatment for his condition.

One month after Tripper’s teeth were extracted the follow-up evaluation revealed healing tissues and 50 percent improvement in the red –inflamed oral tissue. Tripper was eating well and did not show signs of pain. After treatment, Dr. Boyd received the following note from Tripper’s family:

“We have just recently had our 3 1/2 year male adorable cat’s teeth all removed because of early health problems before we had him.  Dr. Boyd and his team were absolutely the best.  Of course, Tripper, our cat is still not sure what he thinks of them but he is warming up to them.  He is healthier and so much more energetic since they helped him get on the right track and now we will keep him healthy.  He is eating soft and  hard food and hard treats – he is amazing.  He was eating 2-3 days after all his teeth were extracted.  If you have a pet with dental health problems – look no farther – this is the place – they are knowledgeable, empathetic and truly seem to love their vocation.  We consider them part of our family now.  Thanks to all of you!!”

Thomas - Cat Root Canals - AZ Vet Dentists

Thomas the Cat Finds a Home and Dentist

Thomas - Cat Root Canals - AZ Vet DentistsThomas was a stray cat who found a wonderful owner who gave him a home and even found him a cat dentist. It’s not only a great story about a kind person who gave a cat a home, but an example of the difference having a pain free mouth makes for animals.

“Thomas has quite a story. He is a yellow shorthair, probably about 6 years old. He wandered the Bashas’ parking lot at Scottsdale Road and Grayhawk for over five years. He made a lot of friends, mainly begging food from Bashas’ shoppers. He slept in the bushes and managed to hide from coyotes, bobcats, owls and hawks. He had several kind-hearted women who fed him every night, rain and shine for over five years. However, the property managers were very unhappy that people were feeding stray cats on the property, and two of the businesses posted signs telling people not to feed the cats.

So, I figured it was time to catch Thomas and give him a forever home. I took a cage out for a week and got him used to coming and going into it. Then, one night he went in after tuna fish, and I closed the door. He wasn’t happy, but didn’t bite or scratch.

Cat After Root CanalI took him to my vet who found out he had some broken teeth and recommended Dr. Visser at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists. I took him in and Dr. Visser recommended root canal therapy to fix the teeth as opposed to removing them.  I don’t know how someone can do a root canal on a tooth as small as a cat’s, but thanks to Dr. Visser, Thomas still has three of his four canines. He also had two infected teeth, which required extraction and the rest of his teeth got a good cleaning.

At the time of his root canal recheck he’s gained weight and is doing really well. The first week he slept most of the time but now, he is interested in cuddling and drooling all over my arms. He is adjusting well to being inside, with no yowling or crying and he sleeps through the night. Thomas is a beautiful cat with a great personality. And now he will have a pain free, beautiful smile! He is one lucky cat!”

Below are images of Thomas’s teeth prior to treatment and a veterinary dental radiograph showing the root canal.

Safe Chew Toys for Pet’s Teeth

Safe dog cat chew toysDo you fill stockings and wrap presents for your four legged kids? Are your pets waiting for their presents to arrive under the tree? We know our dogs and cats love new chew toys and treats, so here are a few things that veterinary dentists want you to know about choosing pet toys this Christmas.

  • When selecting chew toys for dogs and cats choose items that you can bend. If a toy is so hard you can’t bend it, it will break pet teeth. There are toys that claim to promote better dental health for dogs, however that may not necessarily be the case. Many of these products are very hard and could cause gum damage or break your dog or cat’s teeth.
    Board certified veterinary dentists recommend pliable/bendable products like Kong toys. When used regularly, chewing on safe toys can be a benefit to a dog or cat’s dental health, although is never a replacement for regular veterinary dental care.
  • Bones may seem like the perfect present for your dog, however vet dentists don’t recommend them. Chewing on dried natural bones, bully sticks or regular rawhide might appear to mimic a dog’s inherent wild nature, however they really don’t. A wild animal tearing meat off of a carcass in the wild is very different than fido chewing on a hard bone. For our dogs, a bone might be a recipe for a trip to the vet dentist with broken teeth or severely damaged gums.
  • Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal on treats claiming to improve pet dental health. The VOHC approves pet dental products based on their ability to reduce plaque and tarter build up on dog and cat teeth. Some products like Greenies may be available in pet stores or you can often purchase a variety of other products from your veterinarian.

Make holidays with your pets fun, happy and safe by giving them toys and treats that won’t cause them any harm. You should also be sure any table scraps you share don’t have any small bones and are given in moderation.

And, remember, if you haven’t scheduled your pet’s annual dental cleaning this year, give them the gift of a healthy and pain free mouth. Be sure when you schedule a cleaning that you are seeing a veterinary doctor who provides a comprehensive cleaning with vet dental radiology and do not take your pet in for an anesthesia free dental cleaning.

Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

Brushing Cat's Teeth - Home Cat Dental Care

Brush your cat’s teeth regularly to prevent plaque & tartar build up between vet dentist visits.

It’s extremely important to regularly care for your cat’s teeth at home in between regular veterinary dental care. Imagine going days, weeks, months or even years without brushing your teeth – bad breath would be only the beginning of the problems. This is no different for your cat and if you’re not currently caring for your cat’s teeth at home – you should start right away.

Cats may not accept brushing as easily as many dogs, so owners often don’t attempt to brush their cat’s teeth. You may have success with a finger brush as opposed to the toothbrush. If you absolutely are unable to brush your cat’s teeth, you may need to utilize a variety of techniques including veterinary dental gels, water additives or dental diets.  Watch a video from the Cornell Feline Health Center about how to brush your cat’s teeth.

Wisconsin Veterinary Dentist, Dale Kressin, DVM, AVDC, says, “Research in veterinary medicine has shown that periodontal disease can spread to the heart, kidney and liver and create significant problems.” See more about Dr. Kressin’s home pet dental care recommendations.

“At home dental care is important to maintain your cat’s overall good oral health,” says Washington Veterinary Dentist, Allen Matson, DVM, AVDC. At Eastside Veterinary Dentistry, their staff also provides one-on-one pet dental homecare demonstrations to their clients.

California Veterinary Dentist, Brook Niemiec, DVM, AVDC, stresses the importance of home dental care in preventing and treating periodontal disease. “Next to professional veterinary dental cleanings, the most important aspect is home care. This will greatly increase the periodontal health of your cat, as well as decrease the frequency of professional cleanings.

Arizona Veterinary Dentist, Chris Visser, DVM, AVDC stresses the importance of any homecare efforts, “There are several home care oral hygiene options from which to choose, but keep in mind that anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation in your cat will pay big dividends.” Here you can see commonly used options for home oral hygiene that have been proven to be of benefit for cats.

“The more dental care you can do at home for your cat, the less that will have to be done by a veterinarian,” says Tony Woodward, DVM, AVDC. “Frequently the best approach is to combine several methods of control to achieve best results with cat home dental care.

According Tampa Bay Veterinary Dentist, Michael Peak, DVM, AVDC it’s important to remember that, “animals have no special ability to resist dental disease.” There is a common misconception among many people that cat’s mouths are different than our own and that they fight off dental disease on their own.  Dr. Peak offers an excellent resource of steps for cat dental home care.

Chew toys may be a benefit in reducing tartar build up, but Houston Veterinary Dentist, Robert Boyd, DVM, AVDC urges dog owners to, “be careful when selecting chew toys for cats because some objects that are too hard can cause broken teeth. Only if the toy can be bent or dented, is it safe for a dog to chew.”

When choosing dental health products for your cats, Virginia Veterinary Dentist, Thomas Chamberlain, DVM, AVDC recommends looking at for products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council so you are certain they are safe and effective dental health products for your dog.



Root Canal vs. Extraction of Dog or Cat Teeth

Broken Dog Tooth Needing Root Canal - Veterinary Dentistry

A broken dog tooth needing endodontic or root canal therapy.

Pet owners are often unaware that in some cases they have the option to choose veterinary endodontic treatment (root canal) as opposed to an extraction of a broken or dead tooth. This may sound strange and not necessary for a pet, but there are some things you might want to consider before opting to have a dog or cat’s tooth extracted without further evaluation from a veterinary dental specialist.

  1. Some teeth are more important including the pre-molars, back molars and canine teeth. Pre-molars and molars are very deeply rooted and extraction is painful as the roots must be extracted from the bone. The canine teeth are also extremely important and extraction of these may compromise the jaw bone or weaken nasal structure.
  2. Teeth are vital in your pet’s ability to chew effectively. When important chewing teeth are extracted the teeth don’t work together for both chewing and cleansing, which significantly increases the chances for future periodontal disease.
  3. Certain upper canine extractions may lead to the lip folding over the gum line, which in turn may be traumatized by the lower teeth hitting the lip while chewing.
  4. Certain teeth may have an abnormal root structure (dilaceration). This makes an extraction very difficult with potential complications from root fracture, inability to remove root tips, bone fracture and excessive bleeding.
  5. Excessive bleeding, root fracture, jaw fracture and lip trapping are all possible complications of extraction, especially for certain deep rooted teeth.
Radiograph x-ray of dog root canal - vet dentistry

Radiograph (X-ray) of endontic files in dogs tooth to prepare for fillings.

What does a root canal on a dog or cat involve? In short, one to two small holes are drilled in the tooth, infected pulp (nerves and vessels within the tooth) is removed, the inside of the tooth is cleaned, and filled with material that won’t support bacterial growth (infection).  The final step is the placement of a filling to prevent bacteria from entering the treated tooth. Following the root canal, a crown may be recommended to strengthen the treated tooth.

Pet root canals are not always recommended and there are certainly cases where an extraction is the optimal treatment for a particular dog’s or cat’s tooth. However, the only way to adequately assess the dead or broken tooth is with dental radiographs (x-rays). This provides a complete picture of both the tooth as well as the root and bone structure. Without an x-ray, a veterinarian would have no idea what lies below the tooth and to proceed with an extraction leaves the door open for numerous complications and costs to the pet owner.

Dr. Tony Woodward, DVM, AVDC discusses root canals in pets.

Expense is always a consideration, however, a root canal may not be much more cost than a surgical extraction of a tooth particularly in the case of larger teeth or those with complicated root structures. In addition, preservation of your pet’s tooth may prevent costs related to future periodontal disease or bone loss. A veterinary dentist will be able to provide you a thorough exam and detailed treatment plan with explanation of costs involved.

Root canal treatments are very successful and many times a far better solution than an extraction, which can be painful to the pet and involve significant bone loss. Board certified veterinary dentists have performed thousands of root canals on dogs, cats and even exotic animals. You can count on knowing that they will provide an accurate assessment and discuss your pet’s individual situation and whether saving the tooth with root canal therapy is an option.

Ask your local board certified veterinary dentist about root canal options for your dog or cat:


The Truth About Anesthesia Free Pet Dental Cleanings

A pet dental cleaning that doesn’t require anesthesia – it’s a new fad and may sound like a great solution for pet owners who are nervous about their pet going under anesthesia, plus it seems like a cheaper option. But, before a pet owner chooses an anesthesia free cleaning, they might want to consider that taking your dog to have their teeth cleaned by a someone who is not a veterinarian, would be like us having our teeth cleaned by someone who isn’t a dentist.

Dr. Tony Woodward, DVM, AVDC discusses pet anesthesic safety.

A complete dog or cat dental cleaning is a multi-step process including, oral exam, veterinary dental x-rays, cleaning below the gum line, scaling plaque from teeth and identifying potential painful problems in your pet’s mouth. Imagine how afraid and upset you might be if you were restrained while someone did all of this to you and you had no idea what was going on and couldn’t speak up if it hurt. Then, consider that the necessary cleaning under the gum line where pet periodontal disease begins can’t be accomplished with an anesthesia free cleaning. The anesthesia free cleanings also leave a very rough surface on a pet’s tooth which actually promotes bacteria growth and future dental disease.

Dr. Chris Visser, DVM, AVDC discusses safe anesthesia for pet dental cleanings.

Anesthesia free pet dentistry is not really dentistry at all. No medical benefits are provided to the pet and periodontal disease progresses in the dog or cat’s mouth at the same pace it normally does.  In addition, it wastes the clients’ money so they cannot afford to have a proper dental procedure done. The biggest issue, however, is that it gives the client a false sense of security that their pet has had proper dental care. However, when dental disease or painful conditions are properly identified during a veterinary dental cleaning, there are a number of treatments a veterinary dentist can employ to correct them early on before causing more extensive and expensive damage. 

It’s understandable that people are afraid to put their put under anesthesia, but the very minimal risk associated with pet anesthesia, are miniscule when compared with the risks of untreated periodontal disease and pain in your pet’s mouth. Appropriately administered general pet anesthesia is extremely low risk for the pet patient, as a result of a combination of pre-anesthetic tests (including blood tests), use of modern anesthetic agents, local anesthetic blocks (which minimizes the depth of general anesthesia required), plus modern anesthetic monitoring equipment. Many pets are awake and standing within 15-20 minutes of completion of the procedure and go home the same day.