Dental Disease- Common Offender!

Dental disease (Periodontal Disease) is the most common disease that is diagnosed at Coxwell Animal Clinic. It is very common in both cats and dogs and can be preventable!

As young adults, most cats and dogs will begin to show signs of periodontal disease. This disease can go unnoticed by owners, so it is important to check your pet’s mouth for signs of dental disease. Common signs are:

  • Bad breath
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Teeth covered in tartar or discoloured
  •  Dropping food from the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Facial swelling or pain when touching mouth area
  • Loss of appetite

Periodontal disease starts with bacteria build up on the surface of teeth, plaque. This plaque can harden into tartar and spread under the gum line. Once under the gums, the bacteria can spread toxins causing damage to the gums, teeth, and supporting tissues. This results in gingivitis, bones loss, and soft tissue loss. If left untreated your pet can suffer from the pain of dental disease and is at risk of losing teeth and having bacteria spread through their body.

Prevention is the key factor in controlling periodontal disease! At a young age, it is ideal to get your pet started on an oral care regime. This consists of:

  • Brushing teeth
  • Routine Checkups
  • Appropriate Nutrition
  • Please see our previous Blog Post on Dental Health

If periodontal disease has begun and we are unable to control it with at home care, the next step would be to bring your pet in for a comprehensive dental procedure.

Before the procedure, we would be happy to see your pet for a pre-surgical exam and to perform blood work to assess their suitability for anesthetic.
Once we have examined your pet, they are sedated and placed under general anesthetic. Our trained staff carefully monitors them. Once stable the procedure begins; the following is a basic template of our dental procedures.

1) We perform a thorough exam of all teeth, check for bleeding, pockets around the roots, and chart all our findings.

Veterinarian using a probe to assess pockets around the root of the pet's tooth
Image 1: A Probe is used to assess pockets around the root of the tooth.
Veterinarian using a probe to assess a deep pocket around the upper canine of the pet's mouth
Image 2: There is a deep pocket around this upper canine. A sign of disease.
Closeup of pet's teeth with red circles to highlight periodontal disease
Image 3: The red circles highlight periodontal disease. Calculus build up, gingivitis, and gum recession are seen.

2) Once the oral cavity has been examined we perform full mouth x-rays. Quite often we may find a tooth that looks ok from the outside but the root may be diseased.

Cat getting an x-ray performed of its upper molars
Image 4: A cat is getting an x-ray performed of her upper molars.
X-ray of pet's tooth
Image 5: The arrows are pointing to signs of severe periodontal disease. There is evidence of bone loss, root resorption and remodelling. These changes are occurring below the gum line and are only found with x-rays.

3) If there are any teeth that require extracting, they will be cleaned first and extracted.

  • Prior to extractions, there is local freezing administered to aid in pain control.
Veterinarian injecting local anesthetic into pet's mouth
Image 6: Injecting local anesthetic to block all upper teeth on the right side.

4) All remaining teeth are scaled and polished.

Veterinarian using an ultrasonic scaler to remove calculus from pet's upper premolar tooth
Image 7: Using an ultrasonic scaler to remove calculus from an upper premolar tooth.


Veterinarian using a polisher with polish paste to aid in smoothing the surface of pet's teeth
Image 8: Using a polisher with polish paste to aid in smoothing the surface of the teeth.

5) Once complete your pet will recover in hospital and sent home with dental care instructions.

It is important to continue at home care following a dental to maintain a healthy mouth!

For more information please feel free to call us and book a dental exam appointment!

Thanks to Hazel and Gypsy for allowing us to take photos during their dental procedure!

Written by: Dr. Ashley Woo, Veterinarian