Dental Myths Debunked!
The 4 most common myths about vet dentistry
With all the information available to us online these days, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. As part of National Pet Dental Month, Dr. Zach Jones has come up with some of the most common misconceptions about veterinary dentistry…
1) “It’s okay that my pet chews on animal bones or antlers.”
There is a very common misconception among pet owners that animal teeth are stronger than human teeth – this is completely untrue! Canine teeth are very prone to fractures, which lead to pain, infection, and surgery (not to mention a big vet bill). Dr. Fraser Hale, DVM, FAVD, DAVDC (veterinary dental specialist) recommends using his “kneecap rule” to help decide whether or not a toy is suitable for your pet. Simply put, the “kneecap rule” states that if you wouldn’t want someone to hit you over the kneecap with it, then your dog shouldn’t be chewing on it.
A broken tooth secondary to chewing a bone. The pink region in the center of the tooth is an exposed nerve, which is excruciatingly painful. Fractures like this require a root canal or surgical removal of the entire tooth.
Image courtesy of Dr. Fraser Hale, toothvet.ca
2.) “The pet store carries dental products which work just as well as the ones my vet has.”
Not all pet dental products are created equal! Pet food companies are very good at marketing their products, even if it means making misleading statements (ever heard of the Blue Buffalo scandal?). Just because the bag says something like ‘dental formula’, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily beneficial for your pet’s teeth. Looking for a product that is scientifically proven to help keep your pet’s mouth clean? Then choose products that bear the VOHC seal of approval on the front of the bag. An image of the seal is shown below:
3.) “My pets teeth aren’t painful because he/she is still eating.”
How much does your pet love his/her food? I’m guessing a lot. In fact, I’m willing to bet that eating is one of your pet’s favorite things to do. There are very few exceptions to this rule, and dental pain is not one of them. I have literally seen thousands of dogs with mild or moderate oral pain over the past few years, but I can only count on one hand the number of pets with so much dental pain that they stopped eating all together. The bottom line is this: a painful mouth isn’t enough to make your pet not want to eat.
4.) “My groomer can clean my dogs teeth without an anesthetic.”
This is BY FAR the biggest myth in veterinary dentistry, and it also leads to the most frightening results. Non-professional dental scaling (NPDS) is illegal in Ontario, but many groomers (and human dental hygienists!) are offering it to clients as an alternative to a dental cleaning under anesthesia performed by a licenced vet. It involves scraping debris off the surface of the teeth while your pet is awake. Think of it like washing your car once a month, but never taking it in to a mechanic. It may look spectacular on the surface, but hiding under the hood there could be very serious issues that are left undiagnosed and untreated. NPDS is like that car wash – it removes visible tartar from the surface of the teeth, but what it fails to do is remove the disease-causing bacteria below the gum line and identify and treat other dental problems like infected teeth.
Pictured above is a greyhound who had undergone multiple NPDS’s over several years. The left photo is pre-op, and the right is after some large chunks of calculus had been removed. As you can see, the teeth are clearly in very rough shape! This owner thought he was doing the right thing by having her dog’s teeth “cleaned” regularly, but unfortunately this dog had to have 34 out of his 42 teeth surgically extracted. Had he had a professional dental consult with a licenced vet from the start, it’s possible that he would not have suffered for so many years. Images courtesy of Dr. Fraser Hale, toothvet.ca
Dr. Zach Jones
Royal York Animal Hospital
4222 Dundas St. West, Etobicoke, Ontario