A pain in the . . . tooth Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Friday, 18 March 2022 13:39
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Dr Liesel van der Merwe

If we have tooth pain, we are immediately at the dentist, yet we leave our pets with really bad teeth and we think it is fine, they will manage.

Dental disease is underestimated in our pets. Broken teeth are considered normal wear and tear. Different breeds seem to have an increased propensity to develop plaque and tartar. Let’s face it – we should not be able to smell our dogs before we see them and in many, especially older dogs, this is the standard. Prevention is better than cure in these cases.

Proper dental cleaning is costly as the patients require a full general anaesthetic: A proper evaluation for loose teeth as well as a proper examination of every tooth to detect gum recession and pockets. All these gum pockets need to be trimmed as any areas like this will be a start for the plaque to start building up.

All teeth with severe gum recession will generally need extraction because plaque and tartar build-up will be rapid. Small-breed dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers and Miniature Pinschers often have severe disease of their upper canine teeth, which have very long roots. Inflammation and infection of the tooth roots can cause infection of the nasal passage as they can go through as well as cause inflammation in the area.


After extraction and gum evaluation, all teeth need to be scaled, using a good quality machine. Additionally, the results are only temporary and even more short-lived if home care is not applied.

Home care involves brushing and this is not easy. I suggest starting with a finger glove made from towelling cloth. This will be less invasive and less likely to hurt their mouths. Use this without toothpaste in the beginning, if necessary, although canine toothpaste is nicely flavoured.

You can then work up to a proper finger brush. There are prescription diets which are designed to assist with keeping the teeth clean – both due to the design of the pellet, which causes abrasion by fibres in a “brush-like action”, and also from components that may act to alter the salivary and oral biome, which will decrease the propensity for the development of plaque.

Even if you end up extracting most of the teeth, this results in a better quality of life for your dogs, as they have less oral pain. Additionally, they don’t smell as badly, so your interactions with them improve. They will even still be able to eat pellets, as they will swallow them whole, which is not a problem.

Be proactive; rather pull teeth which look suspect, than have a dog with a sore, rotten tooth. They will be much happier and their quality of life will be improved.

 
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