Canine & Feline Dentistry

During our annual physical examinations we routinely will examine your pet’s mouth for any signs of oral or dental disease. The most common disease in pets over the age of 5 is dental disease! Just like us, our dogs and cats require dental hygiene practices to keep their teeth and gums healthy. This can be accomplished in many ways, including brushing, special diets, special chews and professional cleaning. Left untreated, dental disease can lead to many secondary problems including oral pain, abscesses, and organ diseases.

Once the plaque film on the teeth mineralizes it becomes a hard substance called tartar. The tartar cannot be brushed off. The only way to properly remove tartar is to clean it off (“scaling”) with special tools (the same type of tools that have likely been used in your mouth by a human dentist). Once the teeth have been properly cleaned above and below the gum line, we polish the teeth to make them smooth. If there are any teeth that are broken, missing or of questionable health status we will x-ray the teeth to better assess the roots and boney support structures of the tooth. If a tooth (or teeth) needs to be removed, we have the equipment necessary to properly extract teeth. Because our pets will not say “AHHHH”, we do need to anesthetize them for these procedures.

In young puppies we will also examine their mouths at every “puppy visit” to carefully watch as their teeth erupt and change. This is a very important time in the mouth, because it is changing very rapidly. A lot can be done during “puppyhood” to prevent dental problems later in life. This often includes removing puppy teeth that have failed to dissolve and fall out by 6 months of age. These retained puppy teeth can cause many problems, including preventing or interfering with proper growth/eruption of adult teeth, causing crowding of teeth, and accumulating excess food between teeth leading to early dental disease. We will also look for missing teeth, misaligned teeth and crowded teeth. One curious point you may not know is that small breed dogs have proportionately larger teeth than large breed dogs! For this reason, we do tend to see some special dental problems related to crowding of teeth more commonly in our tiny canine companions.

Exotic Mammal Dentistry

When you bring your small exotic mammal in for a physical examination we will check the teeth and mouth for any signs of oral or dental disease. Ferrets and hedgehogs have teeth similar to cats and dogs (and us): they grow an adult set of teeth as young animals that do not continue to grow (i.e. they have “closed roots). They have incisors, canines, premolars and molars, all of which can accumulate plaque and tartar over time and may require professional cleaning (see our dog and cat dentistry section for more details).

Rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs all have continuously growing teeth. The long front teeth you can easily see by pulling up the animal’s lips are the incisors. The incisors are used for biting off bits of food and pulling it into the mouth. Then there is a small gap of gum tissue where there are no teeth (the diastema), followed by many large, grinding flat molars and premolars. The molars cannot be seen by just lifting the lips in these species, and you will see us use a scope to better look deep into the back of the mouth. These molars are very important for grinding up the food, and they also continually grow and should be worn down evenly by chewing. Sometimes, the molars do not grind down evenly and they develop sharp points or spikes that can cause sores on the tongue or cheeks. This is a relatively common problem that is related to breed, conformation, diet and age. We can manage this problem by using special equipment to carefully grind off these sharp points and even out the teeth as necessary. We also will x-ray the skull to assess the very long roots of these teeth (only about 10% of the tooth is actually visible inside the mouth, the rest is deep in the bone of the jaw and face). Occasionally, the roots of the teeth can also become infected and lead to large abscesses deep into the bone and cheeks and need surgery to correct and drain, and the offending tooth (or teeth) will need to be removed.

Small rodents such as mice, rats, and hamsters have a combination of tooth-types. Their front, long incisor teeth are continuously growing. However, their flat, grinding molars are actually like ours, and do not continue to grow. We do occasionally see incisor problems in small rodents that require corrective trimming, but it is uncommon.