Specialties in Veterinary Dentistry Can Provide Your Pet With A Healthier Mouth & Teeth
Your typical veterinary clinician learns in university how to perform anesthetic dentistry to help keep your pet’s teeth and mouth clean and infection free. They are taught how to examine the mouth to look for abnormalities and disease, and then how to perform cleaning treatments and various procedures to alleviate any known ailments. Additionally, the young veterinarian studies how to prevent further dental disease in his or her patients through various prophylactic measures.
In recent years, the branches of veterinary dentistry have expanded to include many techniques previously only performed on human patients. Veterinarians wanting to specialize in these new fields – periodontics, exodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics, and prosthodontics/restorative therapy – must undergo years of rigorous additional training in order to be certified to practice.
To understand what veterinary dentistry has to offer your pets in this age of modern medicine, we have outlined what each specialty entails and how it can help those animals in need of extra dental care.
Veterinary periodontics is the dentistry specialty that studies the conditions and diseases of the supporting structures of your pet’s teeth. These structures include the gingiva (gums), the alveolar bones (the bones called the maxilla and the mandible that contain the tooth sockets holding teeth in place), the cementum (the calcified substance covering the root of the tooth), and the periodontal ligament (the connective fibers holding the tooth to the bone).
When the certified dental technicians of Pet Dental Services perform a Professional Outpatient Preventive Dental (POPD) procedure on your non-anesthetized pet’s teeth, they are essentially working as a hygienist to a periodontists. The oral examination of your pet tells if your cat or dog is showing signs of periodontal disease, gum infection or inflammation, if there are tooth root abscesses, and if the bones of your pet’s mouth are weakened or diseased.
Veterinary exodontics is that brand of dentistry dealing with the extraction of broken or chipped teeth, and the removal of teeth where the tooth root is no longer viable and the diseased ligaments are unable hold the tooth in its socket. This practice is typically performed under general anesthesia by a veterinary clinician and, as such, does not fall under the scope of the POPD procedure.
Veterinary endodontics deals with the tissues surrounding the root of your dog’s tooth, the gums, the socket, the periodontal ligament, and the inside – or pulp – of the tooth. A relatively new specialty designed to save the injured teeth, veterinary endodontists perform gum and jaw surgeries, root canal therapy for diseased or injured tooth pulp, and treat cracked and broken teeth by either extracting or placing a bonded sealant on the ailing tooth. Additionally, they will treat a pet’s teeth that have been traumatized in an accident and redo root canal procedures as needed for the health of the tooth. Because these procedures can be quite painful, the specialist always performs them on animals under general anesthesia.
Oral surgery is a discipline of veterinary dentistry that employs surgical techniques to treat disease and traumatic injury to your pet’s oral cavity and related tissues. Infection, cancer, cysts, tumors, palatal defects, and injury often require oral surgical intervention by the veterinary dentist in order to treat the condition. Because of their extra training, board certified veterinary dentists are equipped to perform oral surgery of the soft tissues (tonsils, cheeks, tongue, lips, gingiva, glands, and chewing muscles of the jaw and face) as well as the hard tissues (bones and teeth). Additionally, veterinary oral surgeons may diagnose and treat your pet’s facial trauma, perform corrective jaw surgery and bone grafts, extract teeth, and diagnose congenital tongue, lip, and jaw disorders.
Veterinary orthodontics is the study and treatment of malocclusions, or improper bites. Malocclusions can be the result of disproportionate growth between an animal’s upper and lower jaws, tooth irregularity, or both. Caused by traumatic injury or congenital defects, pets with misshaped teeth and abnormal bites can suffer with painful tooth-on-tooth or tooth-on-soft-tissue contact, indentations or holes in the soft palate, and chronic oronasal fistulas resulting in respiratory tract infections and poor overall health. The primary objective of the veterinary orthodontist is to provide a comfortable bite for his or her patients, either as a preventive measure early in the pet’s life, or by later applying forces (canine and feline braces) to move teeth to a place in the mouth that is comfortable and functional.
Using prosthetic material, Prosthodontic and restorative veterinary dentists work exclusively to restore the outer structure of your pet’s tooth to normal functioning, and prevent further breakdown of any remaining tooth structure. Pets with teeth weakened by decay, whose teeth are cracked, broken, or severely worn down, and those pets with enamel defects due to early trauma or extremely high fevers, as puppies and kittens are prime candidates for either cast metal crowns or composite restorations.
As our pets have developed into an integral part of our families over the past several decades, the science of veterinary dentistry has evolved to more closely resemble the kinds of human dentistry performed on our children and ourselves. Highly trained, veterinary specialists are now performing intricate, advanced dental procedures on our animals allowing them to live longer, healthier lives.