Dog Dentistry

If you are concerned about problem with your dog’s dental health or your dog has an oral injury or condition like a broken tooth, jaw trauma, severe bad breath or an unusual growth, you can choose to take your dog to a veterinary dentist. A veterinary dentist specializes in advanced veterinary dental and oral surgical treatments for dogs including the following: canine endodontics, canine periodontics, canine orthodontics, canine tooth restorations, veterinary dental radiology, and canine oral surgery. Pet Dentists are dedicated to providing optimal health care for pets and offer the best options for treating your dog’s dental problems.


dangers of anesthesia free pet dental care

Consequences of Anesthesia Free Pet Dental Care

Contact Dr. Woodward at Animal Dental Care in Colorado Springs at 719-536-9949 or at wellpets.com

Contact Dr. Woodward at Animal Dental Care in Colorado Springs at 719-536-9949 or at wellpets.com

Recently Colorado veterinary dental specialist Dr. Tony Woodward cared for a middle-aged dog who’d had multiple anesthesia free pet dental cleanings over the last few years in place of professional veterinary dental care. The dog’s teeth did not look very bad and the patient was actually referred to Animal Dental Care in Colorado for another dental problem, not a cleaning. Because the dog’s teeth appeared fairly clean to the owner, they were under the impression that the anesthesia free cleanings had been working well, which unfortunately wasn’t the case. What lurked beneath this dog’s gumline is a clear example of the long-term consequences dogs and owners face when falling prey to the myths of anesthesia free pet dental care.

After full examination including dental radiographs, the problems were evident and resulted in extraction of 16 teeth that were not treatable, due to long-term infection that had gone undetected during the anesthesia-free cleaning procedures. These abscessed teeth were not loose, so a lay person merely scaling the teeth would have never known there was a problem. However, had this dog been taken in for a proper dental cleaning with safe anesthesia and dental x-rays, the areas of severe bone loss and infection could have been treated much earlier and possibly even prevented. In other words, these teeth could have been saved with proper care.

Below are photos and x-rays detailing the case and demonstrating the damage resulting from the anesthesia free teeth cleanings.

Dangers of anesthesia free pet dental care

Picture of the left lower side, showing small amounts of calculus (tartar) above the dog’s gum line.

Grooves in dog teeth due improper anesthesia free cleaning

After cleaning the deep grooves are visible on the teeth from the previous anesthesia free cleaning procedure. The teeth had not been properly polished which allowed rapid accumulation of tartar shortly after the last cleaning.

Grooves in dog teeth due improper anesthesia free cleaning

A dental X-ray of the area, showing large amounts of bone loss around the lower first molar, extending almost all the way through the jaw.

Grooves in dog teeth due improper anesthesia free cleaning

Another dental x-ray after extraction, showing the large defect in the jaw with bone graft material placed into the surgery site.

dangers of anesthesia free pet dental care

The left upper side, showing a dental probe placed between the roots from the inside of the dog’s mouth to the outside.

Dangers of anesthesia free pet dental care

Dental X-ray of this area, showing the large areas of bone loss that had gone untreated, resulting in severe infection and loss of the dog’s teeth in this area.

 

Sparrow – A Special Dog Who Deserved Special Care!

Sparrow - Australian Shepherd Puppy - Wisconsin

Meet Dunham Lake Captain Jack “Sparrow”

Australian Terrier,  Dunham Lake Captain Jack “Sparrow” was born in 2012, without his front right leg, a birth defect was likely due to his mother being exposed to something toxic early on in her pregnancy.  Despite the missing leg, Sparrow continued to thrive, had a slight problem with his right eye (ulcerated cornea), but all other development seemed to be normal.

As he started to lose his puppy teeth, I noticed he would make a funny grinding noise with this teeth and his breath smelled like metal (blood). I watched him carefully, as I do with all my puppies. I had some concerns about the way some of the teeth seemed to be coming in on right side of his mouth, but I also thought, it would straighten out as the puppy teeth fell out.

Examining Puppy Teeth - Wisconsin Vet Dentist

Sparrow’s owner examining his mouth lead her to contact Wisconsin Veterinary Dental Specialist Dr. Dale Kressin.

On February 28, 2013, Sparrow was not acting like himself. I looked at this teeth again, they seemed okay, but the smell of his breath was even worse. I opened his mouth wide and then saw the problem. It appeared to me, that his bottom teeth on the right side were actually cutting into the roof of his mouth and creating an open bloody crevice on the right side of the roof of his mouth. There also was that one molar that I had been concerned about, which was protruding outward toward his check on the upper right jaw.  I decided I better put him on a pain killer and an antibiotic just to be on the safe side.

I was quite distressed about this and had planned to bring him into my vet, but decided that it would be better for him to see a veterinary specialist. My daughter quickly started googling Veterinarian Dental Specialist in Minnesota or Wisconsin and located Dr. Kressin’s Eden Prairie office and the University of Minnesota as two possible places that would specialize in Animal Oral Surgery.

I contacted Dr. Kressin who was very kind and he explained some options. I felt very confident that Dr. Kressin was the right vet dentist for Sparrow, but I was hoping that he could be seen in his Eden Prairie office, not in Oshkosh because that is a 6 hour drive from our home. Dr. Kressin explained that if we could get him to Oshkosh, he would evaluate his condition and he could begin treatment or surgery that same day. I told Dr. Kressin I would get back to him very soon, but I was also going to contact the U of M, since that is only 1 1/2 hours from my home.

After discovering that the U of M would not be able to begin any treatment or surgery on Sparrow until the end of the month at the earliest, the decision was easy. I contacted Dr. Kressin and we made an appointment for the following week to have him see Sparrow in Oshkosh.

Upon arrival at Dr. Kressin’s veterinary dental clinic, we were very impressed with Dr. Kressin and his staff, who explained everything to us in detail including what they had planned to explore and the costs associated with everything. As Dr. Kressin worked on Sparrow, he called me to give up dates, which was very comforting. We left Sparrow in excellent hands and we picked him up a few hours later. This experience couldn’t have been any better.

Sparrow - vet dentistry patient - wisconsin vet dentist

Sparrow recovered well after vet dental surgery with Dr. Kressin.

That evening in our hotel room, Sparrow was running around as if he had never had surgery. In just 11 days since Sparrow’s surgery, he continues to do well. His recovery has been on track if not ahead of schedule. I have great expectations that he will continue to improve and be as comfortable and normal as my other dogs.

We can not thank Dr. Kressin enough for his expertise, through diagnosis and decisions he made in the best interest of our little dog. His commitment and dedication to his patients is superb.

To see Sparrow’s videos or more photos, please visit his website at www.dunhamlakecaptainjacksparrow.com

Sparrow - Wisconsin Vet Dentist Patient

Give a Dog a Bone?

Give your dog a bone and without question they’ll run off to gnaw and chew for hours. But, next time you see those bones at the grocery or pet store, consider they may end up costing you much more than a few dollars. Dog bones have the potential to seriously damage your dog’s teeth, which can lead to an unexpected veterinary bill. The following video from Veterinary News Network, offers excellent information about the risks of letting a dog chew on bones.

Broken dog tooth - Vet Dentist

A fractured dog tooth is painful & must be treated.

While bones are not the only cause for fractured teeth, board certified veterinary dentists will agree it’s is a common cause for dogs who must be treated for broken teeth. “In most cases, broken teeth are caused by the significant biting force dogs can generate coupled with the items they  chew,” says Dr. Michael Peak, a vet dentist in Florida.

“For dogs, chewing on hard materials commonly causes broken or fractured teeth. The result is often a tooth fracture that extends into the pulp canal within the tooth,” says Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialist Dr. Chris Visser.

Since your dog can’t tell you about their pain, you may not initially realize your dog has a broken tooth – but you can be assured broken teeth are very painful for your pet. Dr. Dale Kressin, a Wisconsin Vet Dentist explains, “The anatomy, physiology and nervous system of our companion animals is incredibly similar to our own.  It is only logical to assume animals experience pain from fractured teeth as we do.”

Signs you may notice are your dog not wanting to eat hard treats or food or not being as playful as usual, however sometimes you may not notice anything at all. Maybe owners report that they didn’t notice any difference in their dog’s behavior until after treatment when they suddenly seem like a whole new dog. Regular pet oral exams and radiographs are vital to diagnose any problems in your pet’s mouth including broken teeth. Dr. Woodward, a veterinary dentist in Colorado says, “Waiting for the pet to show signs of pain, which hardly ever happens, can actually leave the pet in pain for years.

Can my dog’s broken tooth be repaired? Yes, there are options to repair a dog’s broken tooth. One option many pet owners are unaware of is that a Veterinary Dentist can provide endontic or root canal treatment for a dog’s broken tooth instead of extracting the tooth. “Depending on which tooth is extracted, it can be a significant loss for the pet,” says Washington Vet Dentist Dr. Allen Matson, “therefore often a better option is root canal therapy, which saves the dogs tooth.”

So, while it can be tempting to give your dog a bone, you can save your dog and your wallet the pain caused by a broken tooth.

Planning for your puppy’s dental health

Dental Care for Puppies - Veterinary DentistryAre you bringing a new puppy home? There’s nothing quite like the first time you and your family hold your new puppy! They are so soft, cuddly and they have that sweet smelling puppy breath when they give you those kisses.

While they don’t stay puppies for long, and the puppy breath eventually fades, there’s still a great deal you can do to help your puppy keep a clean and health mouth into adulthood.

First, you have to commit to maintaining your puppy’s dental health over the long term. This means being prepared for an annual visit to your veterinarian for a complete pet dental cleaning and oral health exam. Anesthesia free pet dental cleanings are NOT of any benefit to your dog and may cause further damage and periodontal disease in the long term, which in addition to being costly to treat, causes your dog a great deal of pain. Your dog has teeth just like you, so a regular visit to the dog dentist is as important as it is for it’s owners.

Second, you can implement regular home dental care for your puppy right away. Brushing your puppy’s teeth with a pet safe dental product is one of the best things you can do to help prevent plaque build up on their teeth. If you begin a puppy teeth brushing routine right away, not only will you be promoting their dental health, but you’ll get them used to their mouth being touched and examined so when they visit the vet dentist, they won’t be as afraid or anxious.

Third, there are a number of veterinary dental products that can assist in promoting good dental health for your puppy. As board certified veterinary dentists, we encourage the use of Veterinary Oral Health Council approved products. VOHC products include chews, water additives and dental diets that are proven to reduce plaque build up on a dogs teeth. Keep in mind that when you choose a chew toy or product for your puppy or even an adult dog, it should be bendable so they don’t break teeth. If you can’t bend it, they could easily fracture a tooth while chewing.

Promoting good puppy dental health through regular pet dental checkups at the veterinarian and providing regular care at home is the best way to keep your new puppy’s mouth clean and healthy. If you see something abnormal in your puppy’s mouth or are concerned about a more serious dental problem, it is a good idea to contact a board certified veterinary dentist who specializes in pet dental care and can offer the best treatment plan.

 

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 Dog’s Teeth

Brushing Dog's Teeth at Home

It’s extremely important to regularly care for your dog’s teeth at home in between 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. With the amounts of bacteria and infection, your mouth would be in a serious state of disease and you’d likely be in a significant amount of pain. Your dog’s mouth is no different and if you’re not currently brushing your dog’s teeth – it’s time to start.

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 dog’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 dog, 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 will pay big dividends.” Here you can see commonly used options for home oral hygiene that have been proven to be of benefit for dogs.

“The more dental care you can do at home for your dog, 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 dog 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 animals 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 dog 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 dogs 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 dogs, Virginia Veterinary Dentist, Thomas Chamberlain, DVM, AVDC recommends looking at www.vohc.org for products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council so you are certain they are safe and effective dental health products for your dog.

Watch a video about how to brush your dog’s teeth at home.

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:

 

Lending a hand to provide service dog oral health exams

During the month of August our group of Board Certified Veterinary Dentists was proud to provide free oral health exams to service dogs through a program sponsored by the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Through this program service dogs received oral health exams to help identify any areas of painful oral disease and the dog owners were given important information regarding proper oral care and education for preventing oral disease and keeping their service dog’s mouth healthy and pain free.

Service dogs work in a variety of areas as partners to owners who may have medical disabilities as well as working in public service providing important and unique services to military, police and search and rescue organizations. It is vital that these dogs are in top health and don’t have painful oral disease that not only is uncomfortable, but also could impact their ability to serve their owners.

Boomer Wisconsin Service Dog

Boomer demonstrates his skills & the important part his mouth plays in his job.

In Wisconsin, Dr. Dale Kressin works with police officer Eric and his partner Boomer. Boomer did a demonstration for an event and as you can see, his mouth needs to be in the best condition for him to perform his job. Boomer has had multiple teeth treated for fractures which have kept him pain free and in top condition.

Dr. Tony Woodward provided a number of exams at his office in Colorado and in addition to recommending the routine oral care owners should talk with their regular veterinarians about, he was also able to teach them how to provide preventative care at home and things to watch for that could be their service dog may need to be seen at by a vet dentist.

TJ Police Service Dog Oral Health

TJ gets a high five for passing his oral health exam.

Dr. Woodward also had the pleasure of giving TJ, a Colorado Springs Police Dog a clean bill of oral health after his exam. TJ was the only service dog who passed his oral health exam with flying colors and thanks to excellent care by TJ’s partner, had no signs of dental disease.

Rugby Service Dog Oral Health Exam

Rugby gets his oral health exam.

A hearing dog named Rugby visited Dr. Brook Niemiec in San Diego. In addition to the exam, Dr. Niemiec used Orastrip test strips to test the level of dental disease in Rugby’s mouth. The strips are not a replacement for a dental exam, but measure the level of bacteria that can cause periodontal disease in the dog’s mouth. Rugby’s teeth looked good and also had a low level of bacteria on the orastrip test which gave his owners peace of mind.

Zoe Service Dog Oral Health Exam

Zoe is a hospice service dog.

This is Zoe, a service dog who provides pet therapy to hospice patients. Dr. Chris Visser provided Zoe’s free exam among others to a variety of service dogs in Arizona. Dr. Michael Peak also provided free exams to a number of Florida service dogs.

It’s really amazing the work these dogs are trained to provide and as veterinary dental specialists, we want to be sure their owners are aware of the importance of maintaining the dog’s oral and dental health.

 

 

 

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.

What to do about dog bad breath

To effectively get rid of or reduce dog bad breath be sure your dog had regular veterinary dental care.

Dogs with bad breath can keep you from being close to the dogs you love. Halitosis, or bad breath, is an unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s mouth. But bad dog breath can also be a symptom of a more serious problem.  It is estimated that 80 percent of dogs the age of three suffer from periodontal disease — a serious deterioration of the gums  and supporting bones of the teeth.

Left unchecked, the resulting bacteria can enter the dog’s  bloodstream, causing infection or damage to vital organs such as  the kidneys, lungs, heart or liver. That’s why dog bad breath has been the called the “Silent Killer of Pets.”  Proper pet oral health and veterinary dental care from your veterinarian or a vet dentist a may extend the life of your dog by two to five years.

Usually Bad Breath or Halitosis in dogs as well as cats has oral causes, although sometimes it can be caused by other disease processes. These include:

  • Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the tooth)
  • Periodontal or gum disease caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar
  • Abscessed tooth or teeth
  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Bone, skin or hair stuck in mouth
  • Oral ulceration
  • Foreign items in the mouth (such as plant material or grass awns)
  • Oral neoplasia (tumors of the mouth)
  • Lung diseases,i.e. lung cancer
  • Severe kidney or liver disease