Just recently one of my staff members showed me an advertisement for cosmetic dental cleanings from a pet store. The ad went on to say that a pet would be kept relaxed and happy in a blanket and receive a message while its teeth were being cleaned. The picture showed a dog’s mouth with heavy dental tartar and then lovely white teeth on the photo below. And yes, the price was much cheaper than cleaning at the vet’s office!
Why should I be concerned? Don’t I want my patients to have clean teeth? That question misses the whole point. I want my patient to have clean, HEALTHY teeth. Just because teeth look nice does not mean that they are healthy. Do you want a nice-looking house without foundation? Do you want pretty looking teeth that are rotten in your skull or cool clothes that cover a raging infection? Do you want a fancy car with a faulty motor? No, all of us wish for houses with a solid foundation, vehicles that work well and healthy bodies. Thus, cleaning dental tartar off teeth without cleaning under the gums and having the teeth assessed by a veterinarian is providing a false sense of security and not benefiting the pet whatsoever.
Dental disease has a huge impact on the body. In the mouth, the dental infection causes pain, rotten teeth, reluctance to eat (in extreme cases as many pets will eat despite the pain), and personality changes. In the body, bacteria can travel from the mouth to other organs (heart, liver, kidneys, lung) and cause severe damage. Dental tartar and gingivitis can have a detrimental effect on quality of life and even affect how long our pets live. There is so much that can be done to help with this condition – dental diets and treats, brushing, mouth wipes, water additives and when needed thorough, REAL dental care under general anesthesia. YOU can make a difference for the better, and improve your pet’s health and well-being!
In my mind, the ad mentioned above is false advertising. What about the pets who don’t want to have their mouths opened and will try to bite? What happens when a pet moves their face because the gum is inflamed and the instrument cuts into the tissue? What about pain control? What about polishing? What if a tooth comes out? What about the remaining bacteria underneath the gums?
I understand about cost and aesthetic concerns. We do not want to put any pet under anesthesia unless necessary. However, anesthesia is a must for thorough dental care – end of story. I would be very nervous, if not terrified, to put metal, delicate tools in a pet that’s wide awake. When I perform dental exams, I need to search around and under the gumline with a delicate probe. I cannot even do that to my pet cats! If teeth are moving, they need to be removed before that infection spreads to other teeth. Even with people, you don’t go the dentist to have your breath smell nice and a feel-good experience – you want your dentist and dental team to clean and assess your teeth to avoid and treat issues as necessary.
Buyer beware: You may get what you want in the pet store – white teeth. But that’s all you have. Far beneath the surface is where the true problem lies. The Titanic did not sink because of the tiny part of the iceberg showing, but because the boat scraped against the massive wall of ice underneath.
If you have any questions please give us a call, or come in for a free dental exam with one of our technicians. We would be more than happy to answer your questions.
Together we can keep your pet’s happy healthy smile!
Written by: Dr. Rhonda Boulter, Veterinarian