Pet Dental Health

Every Rose has its Thorn

Stick stuck in Dog mouthHailey is a beautiful golden retriever who came to Dr. Niemiec of Southern California Veterinary Dental Specialists for bad breath without obvious gum disease.  The only way to accurately assess and diagnose any pet dental condition is under anesthesia and with radiographs.

So, Hailey was placed under anesthesia and initial examination revealed a stick across her palate and wedged between the big chewing teeth on the upper jaw. This was a bit of a surprise and further questioning of the owner revealed that Hailey loved rose bushes and would occasionally chew on them.  Examination of the stick confirmed that it was indeed a piece of a rose bush. Unfortunately the stick had created significant gum and bone damage in the area between the roots of the major chewing teeth.

Veterinary dental radiographs were taken and then the surgical process begaan. Dr. Niemiec removed the stick and then elevated the palate tissue to expose the areas between the roots of these important chewing teeth. After the roots were cleaned, bone grafts were placed in the area to help regrow the lost bone.  She did lose one smaller molar due to the advanced disease, but this will not affect her life.

At two week recheck, she is happier and her breath is much better.  There is now a new fence around the rosebushes!

When you notice something suddenly different, like increased bad breath, it’s very important to find a veterinary dentist to evaluate your pet. You never now what the problem could be.

For veterinarians seeking more information about periodontal surgery, order Dr. Niemiecs text book “Veterinary periodontoliogy” here.  

Pet Oral Burns

Burns in pet mouths are certainly not entirely out of the ordinary. Pets presented with oral burns can be challenging problems to manage as the injuries can cause significant pain and tissue destruction.

If your pet experiences an oral burn it’s vital to have your pet evaluated as soon as possible by a veterinary dental specialist. A veterinary dental specialist will not only be able to treat the visible injury from the burn, but also do a thorough assessment of any damage that may not be initially visible due to the burn injury. It is important that your pet receives veterinary dental radiographs to determine the extent of the damage.

Recently, Dr. Dale Kressin of Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery Specialists in Wisconsin, treated a dog who’d experienced an oral burn after a burn that occurred from chewing an electrical cord.

Dr. Kressin’s initial priority was to do an oral examination and treat the initial source of the burn with copious irrigation of the injured area. A few days after initial treatment, the degree of injury was reassessed so that the full extent of injury could be evaluated and a treatment plan implemented. A tooth extraction was necessary because the burn destroyed the gingiva and the alveolar bone that supports the tooth. Surgical treatment is often the case with burns as there can be damaged, irreversibly damaged or dead tissue or bone that needs addressed.

Photos below show initial burn injury, damage caused and post treatment photographs and radiographs.

Oral Masses in Dogs and Cats

Growths can occur in the mouths of dogs and cats.  Growths (or masses) can be benign, locally aggressive but don’t spread to other parts of the body or they can be malignant. To determine what the nature of the mass is, obtaining a sample from the mass and sending it to a lab to have it evaluated is critical to determine how to treat the mass.  An aggressive mass may require a large surgical resection of the site of the mass.  A benign mass may only require removal of the mass itself without any surrounding tissue. If your pet has an oral mass of any kind, it’s important to have it evaluated by a veterinary dentist as soon as possible so it can be diagnosed and treated early if necessary.

Oral mass in a 10 year old dog.

Oral mass in a 10 year old dog.

Recently a dog with an oral mass was seen by Dr. Allen Matson at Eastside Veterinary Dentistry. The picture shows the mass, which was located just behind the maxillary canine tooth on the right side.  When looking at the mass, there’s no way to tell if it is benign or malignant, which is why it’s necessary to remove the mass as well as sample the tissue to determine the nature of the mass. In this case the mass was excised and submitted for microscopic evaluation. The result was benign gingival hyperplasia, which can be common in older dogs and certain breeds of dogs.

With this information, this dog’s owner was told that monitoring the area for regrowth is all that is indicated at this time.  If the growth recurs, simple removal may be all that is necessary.  At the extreme, extraction of the canine tooth associated with the mass and closure would be curative.  However, in this case, the dog is 10 years old and additional treatment may not ever be needed.

This is also why it is important your pet has a complete veterinary dental cleaning and oral evaluation yearly. Often masses are in a location that an owner may not notice, but we can identify during the oral evaluation.

Pet Periodontal Disease – How Bad Can it Really Be?

Severe periodontal disease in 9 year old dog.

Severe periodontal disease in 9 year old dog.

Veterinary dentists often talk about the risk of periodontal disease in pets and that it’s the most common condition affecting adult dogs and cats. But, pet owners often wonder how bad this really can be for their pets. This severe case of periodontal disease presented at Animal Dental Care in Colorado.

The patient was a nine year-old Boston Terrier with severe (end-stage) periodontal disease. The disease had progressed over the years as she’d not had any previous veterinary dental cleanings or oral care.

The pet’s family came for an evaluation due to their dog’s severe and worsening halitosis, or bad breath. Amazingly, she was still eating even in light of the disease and pain in her mouth.

Treatment of this level of periodontal disease in a pet’s mouth requires extraction of most teeth. Any remaining teeth must then be treated with aggressive periodontal therapy in order to save them.

When it comes to periodontal disease, the truth is it can cause extensive damage to your pet’s teeth and entire oral cavity, not to mention, far more costly than the cost of annual veterinary dental cleanings.

Splint on cat with jaw fracture

Treating Kiki’s Jaw Fracture. She’s One Tough Cat!

Splint on cat with jaw fractureKiki is a four year old female cat who was hit by a car. After the accident, she was immediately taken to an emergency clinic by her owners and diagnosed with a right caudal mandibular fracture involving the right TMJ joint, a mandibular symphyseal fracture and zygomatic fracture.  Her right eye was also proptosed. The emergency clinic treated her aggressively for shock and head trauma. After she was stabilized her right eye was surgically removed due to the trauma. She was not visual through her left eye, but there was still hope that she would regain vision over time in this eye. She remained hospitalized in the emergency clinic over that weekend and became severely anemic. After two blood transfusions her red blood cell count stabilized.

The following Monday Kiki was transferred to Animal Dental Care. In addition to the fractures diagnosed by the emergency clinic, she also had complicated crown fractures of the right maxillary and mandibular canine teeth. The mandibular symphyseal fracture was stabilized with a 24 g cerclage wire. The caudal mandibular fracture was stabilized by performing interarcade bonding with acrylic material. An esophageal feeding tube was placed to provide post-operative nutrition and hydration. The owners were instructed on how to feed Kiki through this tube at home. It was planned to treat canine tooth fractures with either root canal therapy or extractions when the splint was removed.

A few days after discharge an examination was performed by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist who determined that Kiki still had some vision through her right eye although it likely had permanent damage.

Two weeks post-op she had her feeding tube removed since she had learned to lap up food and water on her own around the interarcade bonds.

Four weeks post-op Kiki had her interarcade bonds and cerclage wire removed.  Her jaw fractures had stabilized. Unfortunately, her owners could not afford root canal treatment on her fractured canine teeth, so these were extracted.

Despite the extensive trauma Kiki experienced, she made an excellent recovery. Her owners have agreed to keep her indoors and she is learning to get around their home very well, even with limited vision from her remaining eye. She is a definite fighter!

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.

Removal of Cyst Prevents Future Dental Problems for Golden Retriever

Cyst was visible when looking beneath the dog's lip.

Cyst was visible when looking beneath the dog’s lip.

Joey is a 1-year-old male Golden Retriever who presented to Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery with a progressive history of a cyst over the left maxillary canine tooth. Veterinary dental radiographs revealed an expansile mass over the area. The canine tooth was removed and the adjacent cystic structure removed and submitted for histopathology to determine if the cyst was cancerous. The surgery site was sutured and Joey made a normal recovery.

The biopsy results came back as a benign (non-cancerous) epithelial cyst. Although this lesion was benign, if it was left untreated it would have continued to expand into the surrounding bone and dental tissues and compromised the integrity of that part of his mouth.

Surgical site after removal of cyst.

Surgical site after removal of cyst.

Looking in your dog or cat’s mout regularly for any abnormalities is part of a good pet dental home care plan. Pet owners who notice any kind of unusual growth in their dog or cat’s mouth should immediately have them evaluated by a board certified veterinary dentist.

Read Dr. Woodward’s detailed veterinary dentistry case study, including full procedure descriptions and photos of Hemisection and Root Canal.

Jaw Trauma Requires Veterinary Specialist for Treatment

johnnyAfter an accident, Johnny, a Coon Hound, was taken to a general veterinarian and diagnosed with a mandibular fracture, a fractured rib and numerous puncture wounds and lacerations. Attempt was made to stabilize the mandibular fracture with an intramedullary pin. Unfortunately, the root of the left mandibular canine tooth was violated with the pin and the fracture site was not stabilized. The veterinarian referred Johnny to Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery for evaluation.

A complete open comminuted fracture of the left rostral mandible was diagnosed. The root of the left mandibular canine tooth had a perfectly round linear tract through it secondary to the attempted intramedullary pin placement. A large section of mandibular bone was missing, along with the first and second premolars. The right mandibular canine tooth had a complicated crown fracture.

Dog broken Jaw

Radiograph showing severity of fracture.

Due to the extent of the trauma and the amount of mandibular bone missing, fracture fixation was not practical. A left rostral mandibulectomy was performed. A pleural block was performed with local anesthetics to provide additional analgesia for the fractured rib. Johnny was sent home with antibiotics and pain relief and a follow-up visit will include a re-check examination and canine root canal procedure on the right mandibular canine tooth.

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.