Earlier this week my husband had to have dental work done. He came home and started talking to me about dental radiography.
Let me preface the following with this: I have a long and sordid history with dentists, mouth pain and a horrible gag reflex. I have a dislocated jaw and have had jaw surgery and I have had braces 3 times and have been told I am an excellent candidate for getting my jaw joints actually replaced.
Ok. I will get back to my husband's revelation. He said, "Did you know that you can't really find out if a tooth is diseased without an X-ray? Did you know that dental X-rays are essential to having good dental health." yada yada. He went on and on. I looked at him, probably with at least one eyebrow raised and responded, "do you know I have this conversation with people on a daily basis?".
He was concerned that I hadn't gotten dental X-rays lately. I got out of them at my last dentist appointment on a technicality. The time before I had gotten X-rays, it ended up resulting in two painful sessions of me trying not to gag and having jaw pain. I really wasn't jumping to go back for more. To my husband's chagrin, I fortunately have great teeth (despite my lack of knowledge of where dental floss even resides in our house). My husband has excellent dental hygiene habits and well, I won't get into details of mine. I don't have cavities, he does. I told him that's the miracle of genetics : )
I am taking my toddler to a pediatric dental specialist, and at 2 1/2 years of age, this is going to be his third visit. I want him to have a positive relationship with dentists (while my childhood dentist didn't even wear gloves and looked like Papa Smurf, my son goes to a office with I-pads, a rain forest and "themed rooms" complete with hygienists who sing songs and give toys out. I wish they had those when I was young....
I told my husband in response to his educational lecture, "yes, I know about dental radiographs, that is why the only clinics I will do dental procedures at are clinics that have dental radiology." I also went on to tell him, "yes, I know about dentistry, I DO dentals!" I have the knowledge, I just don't look forward to getting it done and I will probably procrastinate a little (Maybe I will draw strength from going to my toddler's dentist appointment). On my part, there is not a lack of knowledge, there is a lack of willpower/desire. On the part of a lot of my clients; there is a lack of knowledge. Let me share some common misconceptions with you:
1) "In the wild, animals never got dentals or got their teeth brushed".
Response: Animals in the wild fractured their teeth quite commonly on the bones they would chew on. They also didn't live as long as we expect our pets to. If you have questions about how it's like to live without teeth/oral pain, just read up on the life of George Washington
2) "I only need to brush my dog's teeth once a month"
Response: What would happen if you only brushed your teeth once a month? Um.. gross!
3) "My dog/cat is eating ok, if there was a problem, they wouldn't eat"
Response: Not eating is incompatible with life; if a pet is in pain, they will still eat or else they would die. Doesn't mean it's not painful or a cause of distress. Eating ok does not equal good dental health.
4) "My pet doesn't need a dental under anesthesia, the groomer/ hygienist brushes his/her teeth"
Response: In order to get a full exam, radiography should be performed, at least as a baseline, this can only be done under anesthesia. Also, without anesthesia, the pet's airway is not protected and aspiration, so pneumonia can occur. When I worked in the ER, I saw a greyhound in cardiac arrest from this. The dog did not make it. Also, without anesthesia, they are only able to treat the crown (the part of the tooth that you see) 75% of the tooth is under the gumline. This is the most important part of the tooth to assess and treat. It is possible for a pet to have abscesses and a rotten mouth with nice shiny teeth. It's also painful. Not recommended. Check out the following link for more reasons why this is not a good idea:
5) "Someone told me not to get a dental performed because the tartar/calculus/rotten teeth is what is holding my dogs mouth together."
Response: I don't know exactly where to start here. No- Tartar/calculus does not hold your pet's mouth together. Bad teeth and infection can actually abscess and rot through the bone and cause the jaw to fracture. Painful, messy and then you have to potentially wire jaw shut for 6 weeks. Not a good idea. Getting disease out = good= less pain = happier dog/cat