Dental care is as important for our four legged friends as it is for us. Poor dental health in our pets can lead to many poor health effects such as kidney, liver, and heart problems, pain, trouble eating, bad breath (halitosis), and dental abscesses. Most toy and small breed dogs will have some degree of dental disease by the time they are 2-3 years of age, and if not treated, may lead to numerous extractions. Other common problems include fractured teeth, retained deciduous (baby) teeth, and in cats resorptive lesions. With good preventive care even toy breeds can maintain a healthy mouth and keep most of their teeth. Preventative care includes addressing problem teeth, extraction or removing abscessed or fractured teeth, and routine dental cleaning as a human would have. The Doctors of River City Animal Hospital are prepared to address any problems your pet may have, including the expertise to provide surgical extractions, address cancer within the mouth, take dental radiographs (X-rays) to diagnose problem teeth, and provide comprehensive preventative health for your pet’s mouth. If you suspect that your pet may have dental problems please call to schedule an exam.

Retained deciduous (baby teeth)

Retained deciduous (baby teeth)

Common problem in toy and small breeds, less so in larger breeds, baby teeth that don’t naturally  fall out can cause malocclusion (moving permanent teeth to abnormal location).  Most are noted during exams for puppy vaccines, if retained teeth are noted, most are removed at the time of spaying or neutering to prevent multiple anesthetic procedures.

Periodontal Disease

Most small and toy breed dogs will have some degree of periodontal disease by the time they are 2-3 years of age.  When dental cleanings are performed in the earlier stages, less extractions are necessary because minimal bone changes in the “socket” or alveolus have occurred.  As disease progresses, some of the teeth with advanced disease may not be salvageable, and may require extraction (pulling teeth).  Dental cleanings in dog and cats are very similar to dental cleaning in humans, however because animals will not tolerate cleaning while awake, the procedure will be performed under anesthesia.  Below are pictures of the varying stages of periodontal disease:

Stage 1 to 2 disease: mild calculus (the brown gunk on teeth) formation, a thin red line on gums indication gingival (gum) inflammation.  Likely minimal bone changes under the gum.  This stage would be considered “basic” dental cleaning, and is the BEST time to address cleaning of teeth.

Stage 1 Periodontal Disease Stage 2 Periodontal disease

Stage 3 to 4 disease: moderate amount of calculus on teeth, will see changes of gums including recession of gums from teeth, may bleed easily if touched, often gums are bright red, some roots of teeth may be seen.  Many patients with stage 3 to 4 disease will have some teeth in mouth that need to be evaluated by XR and may even require extraction.

Stage 3 Periodontal Disease Stage 4 Periodontal Disease

Stage 5 disease: Severe dental disease, very common in older small breed dogs that have never had dental care/cleaning.  The teeth are often mobile (loose),  completely covered in calculus, and have very strong odor from mouth.  With this degree of disease in mouth, many of the teeth will likely be extracted, as seen below, as there is no way to salvage them.  As bad as the mouthmay look, after dental cleaning and time for extraction sites of mouth to heal, the patient is happier, and healthier, and often even with fewer teeth, eat better.  This stage of disease also causes a significant amount of discomfort to the patient, as many of the teeth are grossly abscessed.

As seen below, the amount of bone loss associated with heavy dental disease is the reason many teeth require extraction.

Stage 5 Periodontal Disease Stage 5 Periodontal Disease

Crown Fractures

Dogs are not very nice to their teeth;  They chew on rocks, sticks, bones, and generally play rough with them.  The result is often fractured crowns (broken teeth).  As with humans, when the “pulp” or center of the tooth is exposed, it is prone to infection, and can even cause long term damage to vital organs such as heart, lungs, and kidneys secondary to infection.  There are only 2 options to treating such fractures, extraction of the tooth or root canal.  As with humans, root canals are an in depth procedure, and though available, are expensive, and most owners elect to have these teeth removed.

Crown Fracture Crown Fracture