Lincoln Land Animal Clinic, Ltd

1150 Tendick
Jacksonville, IL 62650


Dental FAQ's

We feel strongly that dental health is important.  To extend the benefit of the cleaning, we also recommend at home dental care.  If your pet is resistant to teeth brushing, let our trained staff help teach you and your pet to make routine dental care a part your daily routine!

Why should I brush my dog's or cat's teeth?

Daily removal of plaque is the key to an oral hygiene program. Unless your pet's teeth are brushed daily, plaque, which is an accumulation of bacteria, will build up at the gumline. Eventually, calculus forms, further irritating the gums and infection progresses to loosen and destroy the attachment of the tooth. In addition to loose teeth, infection under the gumline can spread to the liver, kidneys, and heart.

How can I brush my animal's teeth?

It is usually a very easy and fun procedure (or it should be... if you make it a game and fun instead of a chore). First pick a soft-bristled, or finger toothbrush. Next, get toothpaste from your veterinarian. Do not use human toothpaste because it has detergents that should not be swallowed.

How often does my pet need to have it's teeth cleaned by the veterinarian?

It depends on the degree of plaque and tartar accumulation.  At least monthly, you need to examine your pet's teeth. Look for an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gumline especially over the cheek teeth and canines. Ideally you should do this every time you brush your pets teeth.

Once you notice plaque or tartar accumulation, it is time for a professional cleaning. Do not wait.

Attached to the tartar is bacteria irritating gum tissues. When treated, the inflammation will resolve. When gingivitis is left untreated, it will progress to periodontitis, which is non-curable.

The intervals between teeth cleaning procedures will depend on how often you can brush your pet's teeth. Once or twice daily cleaning is optimum. If you cannot brush the teeth, then your pet will probably need two or three teeth cleaning visits yearly.  Remember that one year in our time is 7 years for your pet.

Can I just take my fingernail or a dental scaler to remove the calculus?

Dental disease occurs below the gum line. By removing calculus from the tooth, you are not removing disease below the gum line. In order to thoroughly help your pet, plaque and calculus must be removed from below the gum line.

Do you have to use anesthesia to clean my pet's teeth?

Anesthesia is necessary when performing teeth cleaning. Anesthesia provides three important functions: immobilization in order to clean below the gum line, pain control, and the ability to place a tube into the windpipe, so bacterial products do not enter the respiratory system.

I am concerned about the anesthesia. Is it safe?

We take every effort to ensure safe anesthesia. We use the safest of anesthetic agents, and we recommend that dogs and cats are given pre-operative tests depending on their age and condition to qualify them for anesthesia. Finally all animals are monitored while anesthetized by a veterinary technician. Keep in mind that the bacteria on your pets teeth are more dangerous than the risk of anesthesia.

What is involved in the teeth cleaning at your hospital?

Each teeth cleaning has twelve separate procedures performed:

  • General exam before anesthesia
  • Pre-operative blood testing (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Oral exam under anesthesia
  • Gross calculus removal
  • Subgingival (below the gumline) scaling, root planning, curettage where indicated
  • Dental radiographs (x-rays) to make sure the roots are healthy
  • Tooth polishing
  • Irrigation
  • Post-cleaning exam
  • Dental charting for the medical record
  • Therapy if necessary
  • Home care instruction
  • We will happily schedule a follow-up appointment to see how well you are performing home care

How much does a tooth cleaning procedure cost?

It is impossible to quote what the procedure will cost because we do not know the status of your pet's teeth and gums. There are five levels of teeth cleanings at our hospital. Fee range is based on severity plus costs for preoperative testing, anesthesia, necessary therapy, and medication. We will be happy to give you a treatment plan once you bring your dog or cat in for the examination, or based on a previous exam- however that treatment plan may be inaccurate if your pet has not been examined in a while due to the progression of the dental disease.

What is best to feed my pet?

Hard food will help remove plaque from teeth. There are special diets specifically manufactured to help keep dogs and cats teeth clean. Feeding the special diets in conjunction with daily brushing is the best to keep the teeth clean. Diet alone will not control plaque, but it will help.

What toys should I avoid to protect my pet's teeth?

Chewing on objects harder than the tooth may lead to dental fractures. Be especially careful with cow and horse hoofs. They commonly cause fractures of the upper fourth premolars. Tug-of-war games must not be practiced, especially in young dogs and cats to avoid moving growing teeth to abnormal locations. Throwing dogs Frisbees can also cause trauma to the teeth resulting in pulpitis (an inflammation of the pulp).  Chewing on ice cubes are also a cause of fractured teeth.

What are cat cavities?

Many cats get painful lesions at the gum line, which invade teeth. They are properly referred to as Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions (FORLs). Unfortunately we do not know what causes FORLs, and the most effective treatment involves extraction of the affected tooth. Check to see if your cat has a FORL by placing a cotton tipped applicator to the gumline and press. If a painful lesion is noted, your cat will chatter its jaw.

How can I tell if my pet is suffering from periodontal disease?

The leading sign is bad breath. Dogs and cats should not have disagreeable mouth odor. Bad breath comes from infection. If your pet's breath does not smell like roses let our doctor examine its mouth and advise care.

What type of tests are done to diagnose dental disease?

If periodontal disease is present or if your pet has a fractured tooth, an oral exam is performed while under anesthesia. A periodontal probe is used to evaluate bone loss around each tooth.

When do I have to start worrying about dental problems with my pet?

As soon as puppy or kitten teeth emerge, its time to start brushing. Although baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth, the puppy or kitten gets used to the brushing procedure which continues for life.

What can be done if my pet has periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease occurs when tooth support structures are affected by infection. In the beginning stages, cleaning above and below the gum line as well as removal of calculus attached to the tooth will help restore periodontal health. In advanced cases, either periodontal surgery or extractions are performed. Antibiotics may be given to control the progression of periodontal disease.

Which animals are at most risk for periodontal disease?

Smaller breeds are more prone than larger because the teeth are closer together in small dogs, and they usually live longer. Terriers, Maltese, and Shih Tzus are especially prone to periodontal disease. Prevention starts as soon as they can eat.

What can you do to fix a broken tooth?

If your dog or cat breaks its tooth, there are two treatments: root canal therapy or extraction. You cannot leave the tooth with an exposed nerve. In addition to pain, infection will soon develop that can spread to the rest of your pet's body.

How to Brush Your Cat's Teeth

How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth

Pictures of Bad Teeth