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Ask A Vet: What Is The Most Critical Thing For My Dog’s Dental Health?

| Published on May 15, 2024

Most dog owners know that they need to do something for their dog’s dental health these days, but not many know what the most significant thing really is. For a long time, people thought that teeth were not important. After all, animals in the wild get no dental care at all and they seem fine, right?

Perhaps animals without dental care SEEM fine, but we do not know if they are suffering from severe pain. Vets have tried to spread the word, and pet owners are more aware than ever that some action is required. Dental disease is brutally painful and has been linked to other systemic disease, like endocarditis (inflammation or infection of the heart valves) and liver abscesses. Without appropriate dental care, your dog’s longevity will be impacted.

I spoke with Brett Beckman, DVM, FAVD, DAVDC, DAAPM to find out an expert’s answer to addressing dental care in pets. As a veterinary dentist, he was very helpful and pointed out that our profession has done a good job educating pet owners that dogs need to have their teeth looked at. But sadly, he feels that too many pet owners believe that a yearly dental cleaning is all that is required to maintain their dog’s health. There is so much more to know.

Dr. Beckman feels strongly that a thorough examination by a veterinarian is only the beginning. He believes that pets require pre-anesthetic testing to insure health status prior to any dental procedure. Any dental pain should be addressed with analgesic planning both before and after the procedure. Anesthetized pets (and yes, dental procedures for animals MUST be performed under general anesthesia) should get a complete intraoral examination.

According to Dr. Beckman, the most important component of dental care is dental radiology. Many dog owners (and even some veterinarians) do not realize the importance of being able to see the bones surrounding the teeth and the tooth roots. Pets cannot complain or point out sources of pain. You would be shocked to see what I find on dental radiology and I am sure that Dr. Beckman has even more appalling tales.

If you are going to try to address your dog’s dental health (and you absolutely should), be sure that your vet has the ability to provide dental radiology. If not, ask if you can be referred to a veterinary dentist like Dr. Beckman, who certainly can. Once your vet or a veterinary dentist is able to assess the whole picture, you can be shown how to maintain the best oral health at home.

Don’t let your dog suffer in silence. Getting a dental cleaning is certainly a step in the right direction, but make sure your dog gets dental radiographs as well.  Just like your dental care, your dog’s dental plan should be complete to address the teeth from root to crown. Your dog may not care how his smile looks, but he certainly wants to live a pain-free and long life.

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Check out the other dental care products that provide support and supplies to shelter dogs while making dental care easy.

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