shutterstock_MAN WITH CAT AND DOG ON  BENCHDental Care is one of the most important parts of maintaining your pet’s health.  Many pets never receive the dental care they need because of misinformation or a lack of understanding about the facts.

Dental disease is the most common, most preventable, and most treatable problem of dogs and cats.  There are many concerns regarding pet dental treatments and whether or not a pet truly needs a professional dental cleaning.  Here are some of the most common fallacies and facts about Pet Dental Care.


FALLACY #1: “We’ve had dogs and cats all our lives; they never had dental problems.”

FACT:  The reality is that your previous pet had dental disease that you never knew they had.  Many veterinarians have never had proper training in veterinary dentistry, and without modern tools, most dental disease was missed or overlooked.   ALL dogs and cats will get PERIODONTAL DISEASE.  It is the most common disease of dogs and cats. Periodontal infection is the silent killer of cats and dogs.

Commonly quoted studies show that 70% of cats and 85% of dogs will have periodontal disease by age three.  It is our experience, and that of most veterinary dental specialists, that these studies significantly underestimate the incidence of periodontal disease.

FALLACY #2:  “My dog is too old for anesthesia.  Treating PERIODONTAL DISEASE is not worth the risk, and it’s not worth the money. ”  This is completely WRONG!

FACT:   Older dogs are often the ones who need (and deserve) the most dental care.  Increasing age is NOT an anesthetic risk. Older pets need to be carefully screened for problems that may require special precautions to be taken, but that should not prevent dental care.

Dogs and cats with chronic diseases like heart disease, chronic kidney failure, and diabetes, benefit greatly from DENTAL CARE.  The complications of periodontal disease greatly reduce a pet’s quality of life.  Gingivitis, loose, painful teeth, tooth abscesses, eye infections, nasal infections, bone infections, jaw fractures, and systemic bactierial infections are all complications of untreated dental disease.

Pet’s feel better after dental care.  The benefits of having your pet feel better are priceless.

FALLACY #3:  “The risk of anesthesia is too great.  I’ve heard that pets can have their teeth cleaned without anesthesia.”

FACT:  Anesthesia is essential for safe and effective dental care.  Proper diagnosis and treatment of dental disease requires a full visual examination of the oral cavity, careful probing of each tooth, and dental x-rays.  The most important part of the dental treatment is cleaning under the gum line (subgingival scaling).  This cannot be performed on an awake animal.

So-called non-anesthesia dentistry can be scary and dangerous for pets, and clients think their pet is receiving appropriate dental care, when in fact, the most serious dental problems are missed.

FACT:  The risk of modern anesthesia is low.  We use most of the same anesthetics that are commonly used in humans.  At Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, we have experience and expertise in anesthesia.  Every safety precaution is taken.  ALL anesthetized pets receive intravenous catheters, IV fluids, and endotracheal intubation.

Patients are monitored constantly for body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, pulse oximetry, and EKG.  Many routine dental care procedures take less than 45 minutes.  Pets are home the same afternoon.  It is important for clients to discuss anesthesia with their veterinarian.  Most fears are misplaced or based on a lack of proper information.

FALLACY #4:  “My dog (or cat) can’t be in pain.  He’s acting fine, and he is eating OK.”

FACT:  Dogs and cats can have pain due to dental disease and many pet owner (and even some veterinarians) will not know it.  It is a sad and confounding fact that we greatly underestimate pain in animals.  Many pets are used to living with pain.

They don’t know how to tell us they have pain, and they don’t comprehend that anything can be done about it.  We know physiologically that they definitely feel pain.  If the same problem causes pain in a human, it is also painful to an animal.

We commonly see tooth root abscesses in dogs that rupture through the bone and face (OUCH!), and owners almost always report that the dog gave no indication that it was in pain.  If you’ve ever experienced a tooth abscess, you know it really hurts.

After treating dental infections and other painful oral problems in pets, our clients often tell us that their pet is more playful and happier.  They didn’t realize the pet was in pain until it was treated.

 CO dental photoFALLACY #5:  “My pet doesn’t need DENTAL CARE because I brush his teeth, he gets dental treats, and he eats hard food.”

FACT:  An annual PROFESSIONAL DENTAL CLEANING (aka COHAT, PERIODONTAL TREATMENT, DENTAL ATP, or PREVENT-DENT) is the most important form of dental care.  Daily brushing, dental diets, VOHC approved chews, and water additives may be helpful, but will not prevent periodontal infections.