“Smile big for your pictures, especially now that you have your teeth all straightened out!”
“We don’t want all that money we spent on your braces to go unnoticed.”
Does this bring back any memories? If you weren’t lucky enough to have been born with healthy, straight teeth, you probably wore braces and remember some of these things. Specialized dentists referred to as orthodontists were the docs who provided these services. Some of you may have visited an endodondist (specializes in root canal therapy) as well. Dentistry has many subspecialties. But did you know that dental specialists are also available for your pets?
Braces on a dog! You got to be kidding me!
Yes, braces as we think of them, or maybe better referred to as orthodontic appliances, are used in veterinary dentistry. However, this is not likely to be simply for vanity or cosmetic purposes. These procedures are typically done due to malocclusions or misaligned teeth that may be causing pain, difficulty in eating, or may lead to other dental disease if not addressed. When you take your puppy or kitten in for their initial veterinary examination, the teeth and mouth should be examined for occlusion (the way the teeth align. Sometimes as a preventative measure, your veterinarian may suggest selective baby tooth extraction. This can be considered a preventative orthodontic procedure. Dental radiographs (x-rays) are a must before making this decision to ensure there is an adult tooth present and to look for other pathology.
Would you consider braces for your dog? Maybe or maybe not. However, there are many advanced dental procedures that can be done by a veterinary dental specialist that can resolve pain, prevent more advanced disease, enhance the quality of life of your pet and increase longevity, while keeping your beloved pets happy.
Other Specialized Veterinary Dentistry
There are veterinary dental specialists available in many areas of the country and not just at universities. These veterinarians have received many hours of additional training in the field of veterinary dentistry and have to take a test (board) to qualify to become a dental specialist. This is done through the American Veterinary Dental College, or AVDC. To learn more, visit www.avdc.org.
The solution to canine and feline advanced dental disease is not always just to extract the tooth. With tooth fractures, endodontics (root canal therapy) can be an option to salvage the tooth. There are some teeth and circumstances where this may be imperative to the pet’s function both physically and for their occupation - police dogs, for example. It is hard to grab onto and apprehend someone without their long canine (fang) teeth! In dogs such as these, crowns will likely be applied after the root canal.
Sometimes young animals are born with cleft palates. These can be repaired and the pet can live a normal, happy life. Oral neoplasm’s (cancer) can occur. This tends to be more common in pets of more advanced age. Some of these cancers can be aggressive and portions of the maxilla (upper jaw) or mandible (lower jaw) need to be amputated. These pets can function well and surprisingly for many, the cosmetic defects are not as bad as anticipated when healed. A veterinary dental specialist is someone who you can consult with and make informed decisions as to what is best for your pet.
If you have questions about advance dental care first consult with your primary veterinary care giver and they can refer you to a veterinary dental specialist. Keep smiling!
Don’t forget to submit your photo into the SENTRY Petrodex Superstars Smiles Photo Contest! All entries must be received by February 28, 2013! Good luck to all!