It’s All About the Teeth!

Dentistry at River Valley Veterinary Service

One of the most prevalent health care problems in dogs and cats is entirely preventable: periodontal disease. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have signs of periodontal disease by age three.

Many people are unaware of the potential consequences of this insidious problem – not only can periodontal disease (and other dental diseases) cause pain, tooth and bone loss, the resulting bacterial infections can enter the bloodstream, then spread throughout the body and cause permanent damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver.

Some of the symptoms of dental problems in dogs and cats include:

  • bad breath
  • yellow teeth and/or a yellowish crust along the gum line
  • red or bleeding gums
  • decreased appetite or difficulty eating, resulting in weight loss

Don’t wait until symptoms occur! An annual cleaning by your veterinarian, along with regular home care, is the best way to prevent periodontal disease in your pet.

Oral Exam

Grade 1

Grade 1 Cat
Grade 1 Dog

This pet has Grade 1 periodontal disease. The pet has red and irritated gums secondary to plaque buildup. These changes indicate the presence of chronic oral infection. This level of dental disease is reversible with a Professional Dental Cleaning. This pet should be scheduled for a Professional Dental Cleaning in the next 6 months. Home care can help to slow down the spread of this infection. Strategies you might try include daily brushing, oral rinses, a Prescription Dental Diet and CET HEXtra chews that are coated with anti-bacterial agents. Just as people need regular visits to the dentist in addition to daily brushing, pets live longer and healthier lives when they get their teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis.

Grade 2

Grade 2 Dog

This pet has Grade 2 periodontal disease. There are red and swollen gums secondary to significant plaque buildup. The family members may have noticed that the pet’s breath smells bad. These changes indicate the presence of a chronic oral infection. As this infection becomes more severe, permanent damage to the teeth and surrounding tissue can occur. In order to put a stop to this potentially irreversible process, we recommend that this pet be scheduled for a Professional Dental Cleaning in the next 3 months.   Just as people need regular visits to the dentist in addition to daily brushing, pets live longer and healthier lives when they get their teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis.

Grade 3

Grade 3 Cat
Grade 3 Dog

This pet has Grade 3 periodontal disease. Based on our examination of this pet’s mouth, we recommend a Professional Dental Cleaning be scheduled right away. The veterinarian has noticed at least one tooth in the pet’s mouth that is causing pain due to significant disease. We will need to take digital dental x-rays of the teeth in order to further diagnose and treat the dental disease.

The cat also has one or more teeth affected by resorptive lesions. Resorptive lesions occur when the enamel coating of the tooth is destroyed by the body, leaving the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth exposed to the environment. In an attempt to cover this painful lesion, the gum tissue undergoes excessive growth; this often looks like a cherry red covering over the base of the tooth. Researchers are unable to identify a cause for these lesions. At this point the only way to relieve the cat’s suffering is to remove the affected tooth.

Grade 4

Grade 4 Cat
Grade 4 Dog

This pet has Grade 4 periodontal disease. The mouth is severely infected and painful. Bacteria from the mouth are traveling in the bloodstream causing stress and inflammation throughout the body. This level of dental disease is negatively affecting both the quantity and the quality of your pet’s life. This pet needs to have the owner schedule a surgical appointment so that the dental disease can be addressed as quickly as possible.

Professional Dental Cleaning

Dog before and after professional cleaning:

Dog Before Professional Cleaning
Dog After Professional Cleaning

Cat before and after professional cleaning:

Cat Before Professional Cleaning
Cat After Professional Cleaning

All pets that will have a Professional Dental Cleaning will be anesthetized for the procedure. Pre-surgical blood work should be performed in the week prior to the appointment.

The day is here! Your pet will be admitted to the hospital for the Professional Dental Cleaning and receive a thorough pre-anesthetic examination by the Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Technician that will be working with your pet. They will review the Treatment Plan with you and answer any questions you may have. After you leave, your pet will be anesthetized and hooked up to monitors that will keep track of all vital systems during the procedure.

The Dental Technician will clean your pet’s teeth using a high speed ultrasonic scaler that will remove the tartar and plaque on the exposed surface of the teeth. Hand instruments are used to probe and clean areas which can’t be reached with other instruments. The teeth are then polished smooth with a high-speed polisher. The resulting smooth tooth surface doesn’t attract plaque as quickly.

The Dental Technician will then perform a thorough examination of your pet’s mouth, charting all abnormalities involving the teeth or gums. If abnormalities are found (missing, broken or discolored teeth, deep gingival pockets or soft spots on teeth) digital dental x-rays will be taken. Our digital x-ray unit enables us to view x-rays seconds after they are taken, reducing the overall time your pet will spend under anesthesia. If extractions or other dental procedures are needed, the Veterinarian will perform them at this time. A plaque prevention product called OraVet may be applied to your pet’s teeth. OraVet reduces plaque and tartar formation by creating an invisible barrier that helps prevent bacteria from attaching to your pet’s teeth. (For more information:

Your pet will then be carefully monitored as it wakes up from anesthesia with fresh breath and a healthy mouth.   We will call you with an update once your pet’s procedure is finished.

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