Have you ever faced any teeth problems? I bet 90% of you faced at least a couple of teeth problems no matter how greatly you care for your teeth no matter how many times you’re brushing your teeth for how many minutes with which type of toothpaste and toothbrush. Yes, no matter what we do to prevent caries and other tooth related problems we are facing them anyway.
Now, imagine that you’re using your mouth not only for eating and drinking but for discovering the world around you and did not perform any preventative care too. That’s what our furry friends live with. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have oral disease by 3 years of age.
Why Do Animals Need Dentistry?
Research show that the oral cavity of dogs contains millions of bacteria from 223 taxonomic units including pathogenic species like Escherichia sp., Shigella sp., Pasteurella sp., etc. (1). In addition to the environmental risks they are facing, the diet has a very big impact on dental health too. According to scientific studies, cats and dogs which were fed only with soft food, or a mixture of soft food and dry food displayed much higher prevalence for cases like periodontitis or dental deposits (2, 3). Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases in dogs since the dogs over 3 years of age have a reported prevalence of 80-89% for the disease (4, 5, 6). Despite this incredibly high prevalence, the disease is still considered to be severely under-diagnosed and untreated in many dogs. Small breeds are shown to be more susceptible for dental problems compared to larger breeds and it’s a known fact that age has a huge correlation with the dental health (7).
But these diseases do not remain limited only in the mouth of your companion and causes severe, irreversible, untreatable diseases in vital internal organs too. Researchers had identified that untreated dental diseases may lead to diseases such as bacterial endocarditis, glomerulonephritis, pulmonary diseases, autoimmune diseases, etc. (8). DeBowes (1994) had demonstrated that periodontitis resulted with severe inflammatory changes in kidneys of dogs even there were no detectable changes in the hepatic enzyme levels (9). Therefore, it’s vital to diagnose and treat dental diseases to prevent unwanted, life-threatening consequences.
Home Prevention for Dental Health
However, there are some at home cautions to help maintain pet`s dental health. Dental chews are our friends in this case! Scientists demonstrated that dogs receiving daily dental chews display significantly less gingivitis and halitosis (10) but it’s not enough itself. Home care by brushing pet`s teeth daily is the most effective preventative report and considered as the golden standard (11). Harvey et al. (2005), reporter that, brushing dog’s teeth daily or at least once in every two days provides significant improvements for dental health of pets (12). It’s recommended to use a soft-bristled nylon toothbrush with a pet toothpaste by applying circular movements with the brush held at a 45-60 degrees angle to the tooth.
Professional Veterinary Dental Equipment Requirements
However, these precautions would not be enough for 100% protection as you experienced in your own dental health. Although taking these precautions would significantly reduce the risk and severity of the dental diseases, pets would still need professional dental care at some point of their life. Regular dental examinations by veterinarian would help identifying emerging situations and taking early actions before any risk arise or could intervene by performing a dental prophy once or twice a year.
Dental prophy is a professional periodontal procedure aiming to remove the supragingival or subgingival dental plaque and calculus and necessary to perform when a plaque is present in order to prevent further diseases and periodontal tissue damage may occur. This process may be performed using a combination of manual scaling with scalers and curettes, and mechanical scaling with ultrasonic instrumentation. Allied to scaling, root planning, which is the removal of residual calculus from the root surface, polishing and sulcular lavage may be performed to reduce the periodontal microorganisms (14). Hall et al. (2021) demonstrated that even after 6 hours after dental procedures in cats and dogs, there was a significant recovery in BUN concentrations compared to 1 week before the application (15). Same study demonstrated that the number of dogs with at least one high kidney tissue damage biomarker decreased from 12 to 8 dogs (no new dogs with high tissue damage biomarkers) and the number of cats with at least one high kidney tissue damage biomarker decreased from 14 to 12 after just 6 hours and these results were much better after 1 week (15).
For last but not least, there are some important tips for professionals who would like to practice veterinary dentistry and try to find the best equipment:
- Focus on finding versatile equipment rather than purpose specific equipment.
- Prioritize the quality of equipment and consider this as an investment for better practice and patient care. Better dental equipment speeds procedures, increases efficiency, and is less traumatic to patients.
- Along with the quality equipment, choosing the right vendor/manufacturer is the key to optimize efficiency. Look for a vendor/manufacturer that provides top-notch training and support to you and your staff. Better training about how to use the equipment will save you significant number of resources.
- Dental X-rays are essential to diagnose dental diseases. Although the teeth of dogs and cats that are seen completely normal to the naked eye, a study found that 27.8% of dogs and 41.7% of cats among them had diseased teeth that could only be found through careful examination of X-rays (16).
National Veterinary's Dental Equipment Recommendations:
ProMate Cordless Veterinary Dental Polisher Kit
VET Dental Digital X-ray System
Deniz Birdal Coban was born in 1993, in Turkey. She graduated from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Afyon Kocatepe University in 2016 as Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Upon graduation she practiced veterinary medicine for 2 years and was admitted to a PhD program as a direct admit at the Afyon Kocatepe University. After completing the required coursework, she moved to the United States and located in Atlanta with her husband. Since then she practices veterinary medicine in Metropolitan Atlanta area. She is a human to a border Collie named Venus.
1. Ruparell, A., Inui, T., Staunton, R., Wallis, C., Deusch, O., & Holcombe, L. J. (2020). The canine oral microbiome: variation in bacterial populations across different niches. BMC microbiology, 20, 1-13.
2. Gawor, J. P., Reiter, A. M., Jodkowska, K., Kurski, G., Wojtacki, M. P., & Kurek, A. (2006). Influence of diet on oral health in cats and dogs. The Journal of nutrition, 136(7), 2021S-2023S.
3. Watson, A. D. J. (1994). Diet and periodontal disease in dogs and cats. Australian Veterinary Journal, 71(10), 313-318.
4. Hamp SE, Olsson SE, Farsomadsen K, Viklands P, Fornell J. A macroscopic and radiologic investigation of dental diseases of the dog. Vet Radiol. 1984;25(2):86–92
5. Kortegaard HE, Eriksen T, Baelum V. Periodontal disease in research beagle dogs-- an epidemiological study. J Small Anim Pract. 2008;49(12):610–6.
6. Fernandes NA, Borges APB, Reis ECC, Sepúlveda RV, Pontes KCDS. Prevalence of periodontal disease in dogs and owners' level of awareness - a prospective clinical trial. Revista Ceres. 2012;59:446–51
7. Harvey CE, Shofer FS, Laster L. Association of age and body weight with periodontal disease in north American dogs. J Vet Dent. 1994;11(3):94–105.
8. DeBowes LJ (1993) In Veterinary Dentistry ‘93, Academy of Veterinary Dentistry and American Veterinary Dental College, Auburn, p 47.
9. DeBowes LJ (1994) In Proceedings, 12th Annual Veterinaty Medical Forum, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, p 441.
10. Clarke, D. E., Kelman, M., & Perkins, N. (2011). Effectiveness of a vegetable dental chew on periodontal disease parameters in toy breed dogs. Journal of veterinary dentistry, 28(4), 230-235.
11. Enlund, K.B.; Brunius, C.; Hanson, J.; Hagman, R.; Höglund, O.V.; Gustas, P.; Pettersson, A. Dental home care in dogs—A questionnaire study among Swedish dog owners, veterinarians and veterinary nurses. BMC Vet. Res. 2020, 16, 90.
12. Harvey, C.E. Management of periodontal disease: Understanding the options. Vet. Clin. North. Am. Small Anim. Pract. 2005, 35, 819–836
13. Clarke, D. E., Kelman, M., & Perkins, N. (2011). Effectiveness of a vegetable dental chew on periodontal disease parameters in toy breed dogs. Journal of veterinary dentistry, 28(4), 230-235.
14. Cunha, E., Tavares, L., & Oliveira, M. (2022). Revisiting Periodontal Disease in Dogs: How to Manage This New Old Problem?. Antibiotics, 11(12), 1729.
16. Verstraete FJ, Kass PH, Terpak CH. Diagnostic value of full-mouth radiography in cats. Am J Vet Res 1998;59(6):692–5.