A special two-part Q&A with Dr. Streiber by Kennel Club LAX in honor of Dental Health Month

by ANDREW M. STREIBERcontinued from January’s Q&A…

KENNEL CLUB:  Can dental disease be reversed?

DR. STREIBER:  Excellent question! Like in human dentistry, we are not able to reverse dental disease in animals. However, with routine scaling, polishing, gingival treatment and on-going maintenance, dental disease can be slowed dramatically, then managed.

KC:  Do oral conditions of my pet influence overall health?

DS:  Yes. Absolutely. A healthy oral cavity contributes to an animal’s overall feeling of well-being, energy level, playfulness and interaction with it’s family. Quite often I have found that an owner is unaware of the extent of their animal’s dental disease, until after their pet has undergone a dental prophylaxis. Once the pet is home, the anesthesia metabolized and the pet is back into it’s routine, an owner will notice that their pet has a better appetite, has more energy to play and is much more involved with the family. All of this is anecdotal of course, but it has been reported to me quite often after an animal has had a cleaning and polishing!

KC:  Why does my dog need antibiotics after dentals?

DS:  Post-dental antibiotics are usually recommend for the very worst of the mouths we see for the following reason: tartar built-up on teeth contains bacteria, gingivitis is usually attendant with the presence of moderate to heavy tartar, and when an animal’s teeth are scaled and polished, as with human gums, pet’s gums may bleed from simply being cleaned. Blood is an important food source for bacteria, and the bleeding gums are an excellent entry point for bacteria into an animal’s blood stream and body. Post-op antibiotics are prescribed to stop this very process before it can occur. It’s all about prevention, and preventative medicine.

KC:  Can dry food and bones be feed to clean their teeth?

DS:  While there are many diets and treats that promote dental health available in the market place, I am not entirely convinced that either of these products is very effective. Tartar collects on the flat, vertical surfaces of teeth. Food and treats tend to be chewed up, ground down, on the uneven, horizontal surfaces of animal’s teeth. A a result, I am simply not sure of the efficacy of veterinary diets or treats to promote ann animal’s dental health.

KC:  What is gingivitis and periodontal disease? What are signs that my pet has either of these?

DS:  Gingivitis is the term used to described the inflammation of the gums (A medical condition in which the gums become inflamed), while periodontal disease is the term used to describe the actual condition of the gums being inflamed (The medical condition in which the tissues around the teeth are inflamed). Some of the signs or symptoms usually indicating that a pet may be suffering from these are the following: decreased appetite, decreased energy, decreased interaction with the pet’s family, halitosis (bad breath) or a general overall feeling of malaise.

KC:  Why does my pet always have bad breath? Can I do something about this?

DS:  You pet’s bad breath (halitosis) may be due to one of three possible scenarios: the protein source used in your pet’s food (e.g. fish vs. turkey), dental disease or some other, as yet undiagnosed internal disease process that may have halitosis as a component, for whatever the reason.

KC:  What is your process for a dental cleaning?

DS:  Physical exam by the attending DVM.  IV catheter placement.  Pre-medications.  Anesthetic induction.  Endotracheal tube placement.  Maintenance on gas anesthesia.  Close monitoring of Patient parameters (heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation).  Scaling & polishing.  Extractions as recommended / necessary.  Ending of procedure.  Recovery of patient to point of extubation (removal of endotracheal tube when Patient is breathing on its own) and sitting sternally (a normal sit position).

KC:  What steps does your staff take to make pets feel more at ease when they are dropped off for their procedures?

DS:  My staff is fantastic in that, because they are all animal lovers, and all pet owners, will, without having to be asked or directed, walk or cradle pets, will sit with the pets, will interact with pets, will comfort the pets prior to their procedure and will aide in their recovery by sitting with them, talking with them and gently stroking them as they recover from their inhaled general anesthesia. My staff is truly one of a kind!