Dental care

With appropriate care, oral and dental disease and the associated pain may be either prevented or minimized. With so many dogs affected, dental care must be incorporated into each dog’s wellness plan and discussed at every visit (Table 2). The oral examination performed on an awake patient allows the practitioner to design a preliminary treatment plan. Only when the patient has been anesthetized can a complete and thorough oral examination be performed and an accurate dental score assigned.14

The incorporation of “before and after” dental cleaning photographs (using intraoral cameras, if available) and dental scoring may help motivate clients to take action either before irreversible damage is done to periodontal tissues or repair becomes extensive.14,56

Each breed and life stage presents new dental needs and concerns. Certain breeds and sizes of dogs have a higher incidence of dental conditions than others.57–60 For breeds predisposed to certain oral conditions (e.g., small breeds, brachycephalics, and dogs with malocclusions), evaluate the need for early intervention with either increased frequency of recommended dental procedures or with interceptive orthodontics (e.g., orthodontic management of deciduous malocclusion with select and careful extractions).

Client education is paramount to ensure proper dental care throughout the dog’s life. Discuss and demonstrate dental home care options at routine wellness visits, providing visual, verbal, and written information of the benefits and simplicity of effective home care. Discuss avoidance of hard toys that could damage teeth, and provide recommendations for safe products. Comprehensive dental care is described in the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines.