Dental disease is one of the most common problems in cats, ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, and dogs. For our dogs, cats, and ferrets the issues with dental disease are usually gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), tartar build-up, and decaying teeth. Almost all dogs will have some degree of dental disease by the time they are three years of age, if not earlier. Smaller dogs tend to have the most issues with dental disease and often need dentals more frequently. In an ideal world, every patient would have a dental annually, giving us a chance to scale and polish the entire mouth (including the tooth under the gum line). This is not because of cosmetic reasons or because your pets breath smells, but because all signs of dental disease mean that there is harmful bacteria in your pet’s mouth. The bad bacteria in the pet’s mouth can easily enter the bloodstream through the inflamed gums and start to cause problems throughout the body. This includes heart disease (such as endocarditis), liver disease, and kidney disease just to name a few. If there are decaying teeth or teeth that have abscessed (a collection of bacteria that the body has walled off) a dental gives us a chance to extract these teeth before they become a source of infection and pain for your pet. It is best for us to examine your pet’s mouth before a dental so that we can start antibiotics before the procedure if they are needed and so we can give you a better idea of what might be involved. For example, we cannot tell if any extractions are needed or if there is any sign of an oral mass that will need to be removed without a good oral exam. Even with an oral examination we may not get all the information. It is possible we may discover more issues once we have the patient under anesthesia and are able to remove the tartar and assess each tooth individually. We are happy to contact you during the procedure, if you would like us to, if we find anything while the patient is under anesthesia that we had not previously discussed with you.
Dental disease of rabbits, chinchillas, and guinea pigs is very common, but the dental issues are very different than they are with dogs, cats, and ferrets. These animals have teeth that grow throughout the patient’s life so the dental issues arise from the teeth being overgrown. Unfortunately, the chew blocks that can be provided do not help with overgrown teeth. This is because it is usually the back teeth that are overgrown so there is no way for an owner to know if the teeth are starting to get too long, unless they are checked by a veterinarian regularly. That is why it is so important to have these animals to have wellness exams every 6 months. The teeth can overgrow due to malocclusion (the teeth did not grow in properly so they do not meet and get worn down correctly) or due to an inappropriate diet (these animals need a diet of primarily Timothy hay, not pellets). If the teeth are extremely overgrown the animal cannot eat because of the pain from the ulcers the teeth are causing and because the teeth grow at such an angle that the tongue is unable to move. If it is determined that the teeth are overgrown, then a molar trim will need to be done under anesthesia.