Our Values – Dental Care
The mouth and teeth are critical components to a dog and cat’s quality of life. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most overlooked. It is our view that dogs and cats live so much of their lives through the mouth and nose – sniffing, tasting, licking, chewing and eating making the mouth a focal point for their interaction with the world and us.

If your dog or cat has bad breath, it is most likely due to the formation of tartar and the smell of bacteria growing in their mouth. If left untreated, this can progress to significant periodontal disease. Dogs and cats are very stoic and will often suffer with chronic oral pain without showing any outward signs or symptoms.

Many pet owners assume that their pet’s mouth is not painful because they continue to eat. Most people have had issues with their teeth at some point in time during their life, and although this can be painful, we continue to eat. The drive of hunger and need for nourishment overcomes most chronic mouth pain. This means that using food intake as a barometer for oral health and lack of pain is not adequate.

In addition, many pet owners feed their pets dental treats like “greenies” or other brands marketed at treating dental disease. Although these treats are not harmful, they are not a substitute for appropriate dental care. These treats often rely on mechanical friction to break off large chunks of tartar or calculus. The equivalent strategy would be feeding our human children hard cookies daily instead of having them brush their teeth. If your pet already has tartar, it is not only on the surface of the teeth it is also under the gum line. The goal with dental care is to prevent the buildup of the tartar to help avoid progression of periodontal disease.

Dogs and cats went from living out in the farm yard, to living in the kitchen, to sharing our living room, to sleeping in our bedroom, to sleeping in our bed. Today we are much more closely connected with our pets and taking care of their teeth is just as important as annual exams and vaccinations. Additionally, because of great advancements in veterinary medicine pets are living longer! Meaning untreated oral disease may become a major factor for a pet at the end of their life.

Specialized Training
At Willow Pet Hospital our doctors have hundreds of hours of training in dental care. We are proud to be among the most well trained and educated doctors in southern Minnesota with regards to oral diagnosis and treatment. Our technicians have also received specialized training providing the best care with regards to dental scaling and polishing, assisting in the oral exam and charting and performing high quality dental radiographs (x-rays).

Extractions by Professionals
Extraction of teeth is considered oral surgery by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry (FVD) and the State of Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine. At Willow Pet Hospital extractions are only performed by a trained licensed veterinarian.

Dental X-rays a Must not an Option
At Willow Pet Hospital full mouth x-rays are performed on all dental patients to look for hidden disease under the gum line. If extraction of a tooth is needed, these x-rays allow us to evaluate the tooth and its surrounding structures to determine if there are potential complications, this includes oral-nasal fistulas (abscessed teeth that create a hole into the nasal cavity), dentigerous cysts (invading space occupying cysts that are due to unerupted teeth) and jawbone integrity (a fracture can occur during an extraction due to the bone loss caused by severe periodontal disease around the tooth). These complications need to be known before proceeding with extractions so we can provide the appropriate treatment.
Post-extraction x-rays are also critical to make sure no root fragments of the tooth are left behind.

Periodontal Disease Not Cavities
At Willow Pet Hospital every dental package includes full mouth digital dental x-rays. About 60% of dogs and 50% of cats do not have changes to the gums or crowns of the teeth but do have significant disease under the gum line. This disease can only be discovered through dental x-rays. Additionally, unlike humans whose primary dental disease is cavities or carries. Dogs and cats primarily develop significant periodontal disease or disease that involves the structures that hold the teeth in place. This disease is not always visible on the surface and is revealed with dental x-rays.

Teeth – The Bottom Line
Routine dental care is not just about making your pets mouth look and smell good, it is an important tool to eliminate oral disease and pain and providing your pet a healthy mouth.

Discolored Teeth
If you notice a pink, purple, blue or gray colored tooth in your pet’s mouth, this is a sign of disease within the tooth pulp cavity called pulpitis. This occurs when blood supply to the tooth is temporarily or permanently disrupted to the pulp of the tooth. The most common cause is trauma which leads to subluxation (partial movement out of the socket) or luxation (full movement out of the socket or even avulsion (complete movement out of the socket and then returned to position). Other, less common causes, include a blood-borne infection affecting the root tip of the tooth.

Sometimes this decolorization is reversible with treatment. If a bacterial infection combines with the blood components being broken down inside the tooth, the tooth will turn dark gay or blue. At first these teeth are very painful but over time it may diminish to a dull chronic pain.

Discolored teeth should not be ignored. These teeth should be evaluated with dental x-rays. About 50% of non-vital teeth show changes on x-rays. Additionally, these teeth should not be left untreated because of their ability to cause chronic pain. There are two options for treating irreversible pulpitis – root canal and extraction.