Dental Health Tips for Our Pets

Next month is National Dental Health Month, not only for children but for pets, too.
Here to talk about healthy teeth in dogs is Dr. Katie Kling, a veterinarian who helps run the dental service at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Saving Teeth 
One of the Dental Health Month messages for pet owners is that dental health is important year-round for overall health in pets, so daily brushing and annual exams with professional cleanings when needed are part of good veterinary care for pets. But what about other dental problems that arise with our pets, like tooth fractures?
  • Tooth fractures are very common in pets, sometimes caused by an activity as simple as chewing on a very hard toy
  • Animals instinctively mask signs of pain, but dental pain in dogs and cats is similar to what a person feels—painful!
  • Depending on the type of fracture, there are various treatment approaches, whether extraction or saving the tooth via root canal or crowns
What are the dangers of not treating the tooth fracture?
  • Animal in pain
  • Infection, abscess, impacts other body systems
How do you decide which approach is the right one?
  • Depends on how important the tooth is to the animal’s daily life/work, canine vs. molar, etc.
  • In many cases a dog will manage fine with an extraction.  A root canal is less invasive than an extraction and the recovery time is shorter.
What are the procedures for saving the tooth?
  • When the crown of the tooth has fractured, the nerve is exposed and it hurts.  A tooth that has a crown fracture will die unless there is intervention within about 48 hours.  Teeth that are fractured and addressed in less than 48 hours can be saved! 
  • A tooth that is discolored, pink or purple, or grey, is almost always a dead tooth too.  Discolored teeth and teeth with crown fractures are dead and may be painful.  Sometimes, the tooth may be painful but the dog is not displaying signs of pain.  Other times, the tooth is not painful yet, and intervention is recommended to prevent pain from developing.
  • A tooth that is dead is not as strong as a living tooth, but it can still be functional and comfortable.  A crown is further protection for this tooth, like a little titanium helmet.  Our police dogs nearly always have a crown placed to protect a tooth after a root canal has been performed.
How much does that cost?
  • A root canal under general anesthesia costs about $1,000.

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