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When calculus and plaque accumulation is severe a dental prophylaxis is indicated to help reduce the incidence of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the progression of dental disease from plaque accumulation to bacterial destruction of tooth support structures causing pain and tooth loss. It is estimated that more than 85% of dogs and cats over the age of four years have periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease can be graded in four stages. The first two stages are classified as gingivitis and the last two as periodontitis. Thorough dental cleaning followed by home care, can usually reverse the first two stages. If the first two stages are left untreated, periodontitis can result. Periodontal disease occurs when there is bone loss in addition to gingival inflammation and infection. Once bone loss has occurred, more involved therapy than teeth cleaning is needed. Factors to be considered before periodontal surgery are: do you have a cooperative patient, is the tooth treatable, and which procedure would best benefit the tooth and patient.

The owner of a dog or cat with periodontal disease needs to be committed to saving the animal’s teeth. This commitment includes daily brushing to remove plaque. Frequent veterinary dental examinations are also required, therefore expense should be considered.

The patient must also be a willing partner. If a dog or cat will not allow home care, it is wiser to extract a tooth rather than letting the pet suffer.

A prophylaxis is a professional dental cleaning that is performed using an ultrasonic scaler while the patient is under general anesthesia.

Anesthesia is necessary when performing teeth cleaning for several reasons:

1. Immobilization is needed in order to effectively clean below the gum line
2. Pain control is achieved during and after the procedure
3. Placement of an endo-tracheal tube to prevent calculus and other debris from entering the respiratory system
4. Evaluation of pocket depths around each toot
5. Ability to treat or extract diseased teeth

The length of time between professional cleanings is variable. It usually depends on the degree of plaque and tartar accumulation but may also be indicated if a tooth is broken or discolored. You can perform regular oral exams on your pet at home. If you see an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gum line or if the gum line appears red above the tooth, it is time for a professional teeth cleaning.

It is not recommended that you manually remove the calculus with your fingernail or a dental instrument as you can damage the enamel on the tooth by creating abrasions. Also, removing the calculus from the visible part of the tooth does not treat the problem that is occurring below the gum line. To schedule a dental or dental consultation please call our office at 715-268-8131.