Dental FAQ

How many teeth does a dog have? 42

How many teeth does a cat have? 30

Do other animals besides dogs and cats have dental problems?  Yes.  Zoo animals get dental care, too.  Dental care on a bear…beware!!

What about animals in the wild?  Animals in the wild can develop dental disease.  Sometimes they suffer the consequences and have shorter life spans. This is called natural selection - not something we would choose for our furry companions.

Why is dental health important for my pet?  Dental health goes beyond cosmetics.  Dental health goes beyond tooth loss.  Left untended, dental disease causes pain.  Bacteria and inflammatory substances from dental disease circulate through the blood and affect every area of the body. Pets deserve a mouth free from dental pain and infection.

How often should my pet have a professional dental examination?  The answer is different for every pet.  Genetics is an important factor.  Small breed dogs generally require more dental diligence compared to a large breed.  Statistics show that 80% of pets will have some degree of dental disease by 3 years of age.

Why do you need to anesthetize my pet for a dental exam and cleaning?   Many areas of the mouth are impossible to properly examine.  Dental procedures without anesthesia are stressful to the pet. Worse, it can leave hidden disease to progress.

Don’t all veterinarians receive the same dental training? No.  Dentistry has become a more important part of the veterinary curriculum, but through the years the dental educational process has been a bit uneven.  Dr. Heekin has advanced her dental education throughout her career by attending conferences, lectures and labs, as well as reading, and staying “plugged in” to the veterinary dental community.  With new knowledge constantly emerging, continuing education is a continual process.

Is it true that some people perform dental cleaning on dogs and cats without anesthesia?  Yes, and it is illegal in some areas.  Dental tools are sharp, and the procedure can be stressful as well as painful for the pet.  Not to mention that hidden disease is left behind to progress.

My pet is old, isn’t it dangerous to clean or extract teeth?  This is a risk vs benefit question. Certainly there are some pets that should not have dentistry, but the majority benefit from the improvement in dental health and comfort.  Pets do far better with few or no teeth than they do with an infected and inflamed mouth; and ALL deserve a mouth free from pain.

Why can’t I wait until the teeth are “dirty” to have them cleaned?   By the time the visible teeth are heavy with calculus, periodontal disease has likely to have already gained a foothold.  Once periodontal disease is established, it is impossible for the mouth to ever be “like new” again. 

What is the cost of the professional exam, x-rays and cleaning?  Currently, our total price for a routine dental cleaning, radiographs, and exam is less than $320. 

If the tooth looks clean, doesn’t that mean that it is healthy?   It may be, but you would not be able to know for sure until all sides of the tooth were examined, and a radiograph taken.

Why is it necessary to x-ray every tooth?  While teeth are located together in the mouth, each one is a separate entity.  A diseased tooth can reside next door to a healthy one.  It is important to identify and treat diseased teeth before they affect the adjacent teeth.

Why do little dogs have more dental problems than big dogs?  Selective breeding for specific traits has magnified the tendency for dental disease in our small dogs.  For example, many small breeds have large round heads and big eyes, with a petite muzzle and a cute little button nose.  This small muzzle frequently contains crowded and crooked teeth, retained baby teeth and/or unerupted adult teeth, and malocclusion (misalignment of jaws).  Picture all of this with a delicate bone structure that is easily damaged by even small amounts of periodontal infection.  This is why early dental care is so important.

Do cats have the same dental problems as dogs?  No, there are many species differences.  Cats have fewer problems with malocclusions and crowding, but they have more problems with painful conditions such as tooth resorption and stomatitis.

My pet eats dry food.  Shouldn’t that prevent dental disease?  Food type is only one small influence on dental health. Many products have kibbles so small that they are swallowed without chewing.

How do I brush my pet’s teeth?  It's not as hard as you might think.  Click here to find out how.

Will dental treats clean my pet’s teeth?  Dental treats may scrub off plaque in some areas, but are only part of a dental home care program.

What are the best things for my pet to chew on? Great question!  Click here for more information.  

My groomer brushes my dog’s teeth every time he goes.  Does this help?  No.  Think about how your mouth would feel if you only brushed your teeth when you got your hair cut.  Your teeth would feel fuzzier than your dog.

If my pet’s mouth hurt, wouldn’t he stop eating?  No. Animals are stoic and rarely show us dental pain. The pain has to become unbearable before they stop eating. 

If a tooth is broken, should I wait until the tooth is causing a problem before taking action?  No. Although the broken tooth may currently be “quiet” and non-painful, eventually the tooth will become abscessed.  The process starts as decayed material from the dead tooth pulp leaks through the tip of the root and creates a pocket of inflammation deep within the bone.  In addition, bacteria can gain access to the pulp canal from the opening at the fracture site.  When will the pain start?  No one can tell, and the dog can’t tell you.

Is tooth extraction the same thing as pulling a tooth?  No.  By the time a tooth can be “pulled”, periodontal disease is very advanced.  Teeth with multiple roots may have one diseased, and one healthy one firmly secured in its bony socket.  Surgical extractions are common.  ALL tooth extraction sites should be closed with suture for greater comfort and faster healing.

Will my pet’s dental extraction be painful?  Some discomfort is possible.  We utilize a combination of local anesthetics, narcotics, and anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent pain. We will also send your pet home with pain medication.

If my pet’s teeth are extracted, will he have difficulty eating?  No!  Even with a full set of teeth, pets eat kibble with little to no chewing. Our cats and dogs live more happily (and healthfully) without diseased teeth. 

Can animals have root canals?  Yes, root canals are a great choice to save certain important teeth such as canine (fang) teeth.  Police dogs frequently damage their canine teeth. Root canals and crowns are essential for these valuable animals to return to service.

Can dogs and cats wear braces?  Yes, orthodontic care is available through veterinary dental specialists.  The orthodontic devices look a lot different than human braces, though.  Orthodontic care is done for comfort and function instead of cosmetics.