A dental examination is imperative for pets at all stages of life, particularly so when they are young. Read more on this topic by visiting Dr. Groves Blog. A dental examination is imperative for pets at all stages of life, particularly so when they are young. Your first puppy or kitten visit to the veterinarian’s office for vaccinations is the ideal time to perform the initial oral examination. At this stage of life the veterinarian will determine if the deciduous (baby teeth) have erupted properly, address retained deciduous teeth, check for fractured deciduous teeth, perform a bite evaluation (how the teeth fit together) and establish a home care routine. All subsequent visits should include an oral examination to detect and treat dental disease early before it becomes unmanageable.

Retained deciduous teeth, where the permanent tooth erupts beside the deciduous tooth, are more common in puppies than in kittens. This condition mainly occurs in smaller breed dogs like Maltese, Poodles, Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers. Generally the deciduous tooth root is resorbed and the tooth lost before the permanent tooth erupts. A malpositioned or missing permanent tooth and the failure of root resorption of the deciduous tooth can lead to retained deciduous teeth. Early recognition and removal of retained deciduous teeth often will allow the erupting permanent tooth to move into the correct space without orthodontic assistance. Never attempt to remove a retained deciduous tooth yourself as the tooth may break leaving the root behind and possibly creating more problems. Puppies and kittens may also have impacted or missing teeth. If it appears that teeth are missing a dental radiograph or x-ray should be taken to determine if the teeth are impacted or are truly missing. Surgical intervention is necessary for impacted teeth as these teeth often develop tumors or cysts around them.
Deciduous teeth are more fragile than permanent teeth and can fracture or break easily. A fractured tooth should be removed immediately to prevent abscess formation. The abscess forms at the tip of the root of the fractured tooth. If the fractured tooth forms an abscess and is not removed, the abscess may damage the developing permanent tooth.

Puppies and kittens, especially the shorter nose breeds, may experience malocclusions or bad bites. Occlusion refers to how the teeth are aligned and malocclusion means abnormal tooth alignment. Examples of malocclusion are overbite, underbite and crossbite.

In addition to identifying and treating dental abnormalities, a home care routine should be established at an early age. Begin brushing your pet’s teeth early. Use a finger brush, a soft child’s toothbrush or a pet toothbrush and veterinary approved pet specific toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste as it contains ingredients like fluoride that can be toxic to your pet. Gently brush the outside of your pet’s teeth several times weekly to daily, the tongue keeps the inside of the teeth clean. For difficult or aggressive pet’s ask your veterinarian for a pet rinse that can be administered with a syringe. In addition to brushing or rinsing, dental chew toys or treats and feeding dry food can promote good oral health. Deciduous teeth are more fragile than permanent teeth so use good judgment when providing chew toys as they should aid in the development of healthy gums and teeth and not cause damage.

Even with regular oral home care your pet should have a dental examination every six months throughout adulthood. Your veterinarian will establish the frequency of professional dental cleanings based upon examination findings. Although it is best to start at an early age, an oral health care plan can be established at any life stage. Please consult you veterinarian and veterinary dental care team to devise a dental care plan for your puppy or kitten today.

This article was written by Cheryl Hart, RDH

Cheryl is a Registered Dental Hygienist with the State of Florida and has been practicing dental hygiene in Charlotte County for seven years. Dr. Groves, Cheryl and the dental care team at Groves Veterinary Clinic work together to provide quality dental care for your pets.