Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Dental care important to pets, too

The cost of dental cleaning in two days was $315.

Of that, $95 was for my teeth. The remainder, or $220, was for my dog, Digby.

I have 26 original teeth and four bridges. He has about 40, or his entire original set.

My Thursday appointment was no big deal. I drive to Maumee every three months and settle into a comfortable chair with my head lowered for the hygienist to get a good aim with the tools that pick and scrape. The scenic pictures on the ceiling are OK for new patients but I have seen them many times. I have requested warm water for the mouth spray since periodontal surgery many years ago. The teeth are still sensitive to ice water.

After an hour the hygienist polishes my teeth and declares the job done. The dentist comes in to check, he and I exchange niceties, I write the check, and I am on my way to eat lunch with squeaky-clean teeth.

Digby's appointment the next day was an entirely different scenario. His appointment had been canceled once because of some dangers I had been warned about.

I was in the dentist's chair one hour. Digby was at our vet's eight hours. No one called him during my cleaning to report I was doing fine.

But I received a call from the vet reassuring me that Digby was doing very well though he was still under the anesthetic.

I did not have a blood test or receive a blood-pressure reading.

He had both, and he also received an IV during surgery to prevent hypotension and for quick IV access in case of an anesthetic emergency. My cousins who are both veterinarians warned me last Christmas of the dangers of having an old dog's teeth cleaned and emphasized the importance for the blood and pressure check.

But the doctors also said that he was in desperate need of the cleaning because they could spot infection in the old fellow's mouth. Of course I was immediately overcome with guilt for neglecting my best friend.

Digby's vet also said at his checkup before we went to Florida that his teeth should be cleaned when we return. Gingivitis, which causes pain, is a common problem in dog's teeth. It can lead to blood-borne infections to heart valves and kidneys.

Dogs can get plaque but generally they do not get cavities as humans do. The American College of Veterinary Dentists, a specialty group sanctioned by the American Veterinary Medical Association, has guidelines of which foods are best in the prevention of gingivitis and plaque build-up.

No teeth had to be extracted, but two cracked molars were sealed. I surmise they were cracked from steak bones. I beg like a dog for the big meaty porterhouse bones at steak houses.

If dogs could brush their teeth and use dental floss, such intensive mouth surgery could be eliminated. Or if they could just gargle and spit out the dog food residue from the last meal it might limit the teeth-cleaning visits and freshen their breath as well.

How often a dog's teeth should be cleaned varies. Genetic predisposition enters into it. Dogs that chew their fur are more prone to dental problems.

Once the extensive surgical procedures were considered, the $220 cost is fair, but the bottom line is that Digby's health has definitely improved. Neglecting a pet's teeth is an easy and unfortunate oversight.

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