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  Volume No. 10 Issue No. 8 August 2014  

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Pet Care
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Dr. Jim Humphries
  Professional veterinary dentistry
  By Dr. Jim Humphries

   If you wait until your pet’s breath is really bad, then you’ve waited too long because this smell is a bad sign that teeth are diseased.
   Dental care in today’s world of veterinary medicine is quite different from even 10 years ago. Knowledge, technology and experience has shown that dental disease cannot only be bad by itself, but the secondary problems caused by the bacteria that enter the blood from the mouth can cause all sorts of serious and even fatal problems.
   Today, digital dental X-rays for pets is considered essential because we find hidden problems — that would have gone undetected — causing life threatening infections and very serious pain. Practically every week, I see pets that have recently had a “dental” at a veterinary office, but the pet still has pain or bad breath. Once we X-ray the mouth, we often find abscesses, fractures or other abnormalities that were simply missed without this important tool.
   Here is an example of a dog’s tooth that looks completely normal on the outside.
   However, when dental radiographs (X-rays) were taken, we found this tooth and the two on either side of it badly infected.
   In this example the jaw bone has been eaten away and now this jaw is at risk of breaking, as when the dog chomps down on a hard biscuit or chew toy. These teeth are also harboring nasty bacteria and actively seeding this dog’s entire system, which can lead to very serious disease in the heart, liver and kidneys.
   Here is a cat with very normal looking teeth. But when X-rays are taken we see the cat is resorbing these teeth. This is a very painful condition, and the teeth must be extracted.
   Once these bad teeth are removed, the pain is gone in a matter of days and these cats are happy and eat normally. Both the recovery and behavioral change is usually dramatic. Many people believe their cat or dog is “just getting old” when the problem is badly infected teeth. Both of these sample cases would have never been diagnosed without dental X-rays.
   Full-mouth dental X-rays are quickly becoming the standard of care in veterinary dentistry, and you should ask for it when your pet is under anesthesia for a dental cleaning. There are countless examples of how dental X-rays find problems hidden deep inside the jaw.
   It is important to note, both of these cases are perfect examples of why dentistry done without anesthesia (so called “NonAnesthesia Dentistry” or “Anesthesia Free Dentistry”) is a real danger. These painful and serious problems would have gone completely undiagnosed and untreated, giving you a false sense of security and wasting your money.
   Technology is making life better for our pets, and preventing disease and pain. In future columns, I’ll show you how technology is finding and curing cancer, making surgery easier and less painful and extending the life expectancy of our pets. If you visit our Facebook page, you can see more examples of dental X-rays.
   Dr. Jim Humphries is a house call veterinarian in Falcon. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.


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