Experiencing an Emergency? Contact Us at 401-732-4050. If After Hours, we recommend Ocean State Veterinary Specialists who can be contacted at 401-886-6787 24 hours a day.

Dental Health

Periodontal Disease

Dental health is important to your pet’s overall health. Periodontal disease progresses in stages.

Stage I Gingivitis

Plaque is present on the teeth and starts to irritate the gum line causing inflammation which is called Gingivitis. Gingivitis is reversible with treatment. Home treatment is highly recommended.

Stage II Early Periodontitis

The gum that is attached to the tooth becomes inflamed and swollen; tartar and plaque invade under the swollen gum. Bacteria begin to impact other body organs. A dental prophy (cleaning and polishing teeth above and below the gum line under anesthesia) can help reverse the process and save the affected teeth.  Afterwards home care is recommended to treat the remaining gingivitis.

Stage III Moderate Periodontitis

Brick red gums with bleeding, gum recession, painful mouth, bad odor to breath is present; periodontal disease starts to occur and may be irreversible. Dental cleaning is needed to remove calculus above and below the gum line, radiographs of teeth are taken, and extractions are likely. Home care is recommended after dental cleaning.

Stage IV Severe Periodontitis

Bone loss occurs due to bacterial destruction of supporting tooth structures; the mouth is extremely painful; chronic bacterial infection starts to affect the heart, lungs, and kidneys.  Dental cleaning is needed with radiographs to evaluate the bone and roots; all affected teeth need to be extracted.

Feline Periodontal disease progresses the same as in canines but they also develop a condition called a Resporptive lesion. Other names include caries, neck lesion, or FORL’s.

Resorptive Lesions

A resorptive lesion is a cavity-like lesion that destroys the tooth enamel or root. This weakens the tooth, causes marked pain, and ultimaltely results in crown fractures and tooth loss. These are most often seen in cats and 20% of cats will be affected in their lifetime. The cause is not known, and the treatment consists of removal of the affected tooth.

Dental Health Home Care for Your Pet

The best home care you can give your pet is to brush his or her teeth daily – just like ours. Pets get gingivits and periodontal disease just like us. By age 4, 80% of pets have some level of dental disease. Brushing once a week is not often enough to remove plaque and prevent tartar. Imagine what your teeth and gums would look like if you only brushed once a week! While daily brushing seems like a large committment, it can become a daily habit and a pleasant and rewarding experience for you and your pet.

Use only pet tooth paste; human toothpaste has flouride and foaming agents and should not be swallowed. Pet toothpaste is flavored, increasing the pet's acceptance. Use a soft child's toothbrush (we sell them inexpensively) or gauze or a finger brush-whatever works best for you.

Here are some steps to gradually introduce your dog or cat to tooth brushing:

  • Rub muzzle, give a treat.
  • Lift lip, give a treat.
  • Rub teeth with toothpaste (we recommend C.E.T. brand for animals) or tuna juice.
  • Increase the time and pressure used while rubbing teeth.
  • Let pet lick C.E.T. paste off toothbrush.
  • Gently and briefly clean teeth with the toothbrush.
  • Increase the time spent brushing.
  • Expect this process to take 1-3 weeks.

Eventually, we want you to brush your pet’s teeth at a 45 degree angle to the gum, concentrating on the outer surface of upper teeth. Go slowly and praise often. Keep the sessions very short at first to keep your pet interested and from developing a negative association with dental care.

We recommend you keep the toothbrush and paste in a convenient location so you’ll be more likely to use them daily. It might take 2-4 weeks of daily 1-minute sessions to train your pet. Incorporate handling her muzzle every time you pet her.

Other ways to help keep your dog or cat’s mouth healthy:

  • Clean food and water bowls every day.
  • Trim long hair around muzzle.
  • Offer C.E.T. chews and monitor for safe use. If your dog swallows whole chunks of any chewy toy or rawhide, remove it and do not reuse.
  • Buy oral care diets, such as those offered by Iams or Science Diet or Hill’s T/D.
  • VOHC.org offers tips and other home care products.