Everyone should go to the dentist

Published 11:19 am Tuesday, September 27, 2011

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

As humans, we sometimes fail to take proper care of our teeth. The result is often the formation of cavities, maybe followed by fillings, with the worst cases ending up needing dentures.

Our pets rely on us to provide appropriate dental care. Brushing their teeth can be very helpful. However, when they start having problems, the progression does not start with cavities. Usually, the start of dental disease for our pets is severe tartar buildup or fractures of the teeth. The worst cases end up with tooth root abscesses.

A tooth root abscess is just what it sounds like, an abscess that forms around one or more tooth roots. The common causes as mentioned are severe tartar buildup and fracture of a tooth.

In the case of tartar buildup, the tartar undermines the gum and allows bacteria to travel along the tooth, between the tooth and the gum and reach the area around the root.

Fractures allow the pulp cavity, which is the central canal in the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels, to be exposed. The pulp cavity provides a direct route for bacteria to travel to the tooth root.

It can be hard to know if a pet has a tooth root abscess because they will not tell us their tooth hurts. Often, the only way to determine an abscess is present is to see a swelling on the pet’s face just before the abscess ruptures.

Another less accurate way to identify an abscess is by a foul odor coming from the pet’s mouth. This is less effective due to the tough odor present in some mouths on a regular basis.

Once a tooth root abscess is identified, several options exist. First is antibiotic therapy. Alone, the use of antibiotics is poorly effective. If the abscess seems to clear, it usually returns when the antibiotics are stopped. If found soon enough, a root canal, combined with antibiotics, can be effective. A long-term abscess sometimes can only be treated by removing the tooth and several weeks of antibiotic use.

If you see any swellings start along your pet’s face or notice abnormally bad breath, have it checked out as soon as possible. The sooner treatment starts the faster your furry friend will feel better.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach them at 669-7717.