Fun Facts about Teeth
February is Dental Health Month
Did you know February is National Veterinary Dental Health Month AND National Children’s Dental Health Month?
As a mom of two small boys and a veterinarian, I find it fitting that kids and animals share a month of dental awareness. I think Pediatric Dentists and Veterinarians share a few similarities. First, their patients care nothing for their own dental health. This means that someone else has to take full responsibility for caring for those teeth. Your dog isn’t any more likely to schedule their routine dental care than your kid, and both kids and pets aren’t going to remind you to brush their teeth. Second, fear plays a very big role in dental care. Dogs and cats, like kids, don’t understand why they are being asked to let a stranger open their mouths and look at their teeth. I actually think veterinarians have the upper hand here, because we get to fully anesthetize all of our patients to do routine dental cleaning! Finally, brushing teeth isn’t something that comes naturally. It takes training and gets better with time and practice (starting young doesn’t hurt either!)
Did you know giraffes have the same number of teeth as humans?
Giraffes, like humans, have 32 teeth. Giraffe teeth, however, are nothing like human teeth! Giraffes have teeth that are much more similar to goats, sheep, and cows. They lack front incisors on the top of their mouth. They also have hypsodont teeth, which are teeth with enamel that extends down past the gumline, and continues to erupt throughout their lives. This is beneficial for a grazing lifestyle. Those teeth are well equipped for a life of grinding and mashing! Dogs have 42 teeth, and cats have 30 teeth. Dog, cat, and human teeth are categorized as Brachydont teeth. These are teeth with enamel that stops at the gumline, and does not continue to erupt. These teeth are made for biting and tearing, rather than grinding. For your bonus fun fact, pigs have 44 teeth.
Did you know dogs and cats, like people, are diphyodont.
Diphyodonts have a deciduous (baby) set of teeth that is shed and replaced by a permanent set of teeth. Puppies get their deciduous incisors between 4-6 weeks, their deciduous canine teeth between 5-6 weeks, and their deciduous premolars at 6 weeks. Dogs get their permanent incisors between 3-4 months, their canines and premolars between 4-6 months, and their molars between 5-7 months. Kittens get their deciduous incisors at 2-3 weeks, their canines at 3-4 weeks, and their premolars at 3-6 weeks. They get their permanent incisors at 3-4 months, their canines at 4-5 months, their premolars at 4-6 months, and their molars at 4-5 months. This means you can clearly estimate a dog or cat’s age right up until about 7-8 months. After that, it becomes a guess based on the appearance of the teeth (and the animal!) This is why a lot of rescue dog and cat ages are truly a guess!
Did you know there is a Veterinary Oral Health Council that Endorses veterinary dental products?
If you’ve ever been to the pet store and felt overwhelmed, you’re in good company! How can you know what products are beneficial for your pet’s dental health? Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) selects products that are deemed to be beneficial for oral health. VOHC is run by the American Veterinary Dental College (veterinary dental specialists), and the products they endorse do actually have to meet a list of requirements, including proving their effectiveness. The products chosen to receive the VOHC seal are products that have been shown to improve dental health. There is a list of these products available on the VOHC website! Check these out here! Veterinary Oral Health Council Accepted Products for Cats and Dogs Remember that products like dental chews have to actually be chewed in order to be effective! Although chews and water additives have their place, brushing is still the most effective form of routine dental care.
Did you know it’s pretty rare for dogs to have cavities?
Cavities just aren’t all that common in dogs. The most common dental disease of dogs is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an infection and inflammation of the gingiva (gum) and bone around the tooth. It causes mobility of the teeth, recession of the gums, odor, and loss of teeth. One of the most common oral diseases of cats is tooth resorption. Tooth resorption is a process in which the dentin of the tooth is destroyed. This leads to a painful area on the crown of the tooth. While we often refer to these lesions as cavities for the sake of simplicity, they form through a different process than the cavities humans get. The treatment for dental disease in both species is an anesthetized oral exam, cleaning (including below the gumline) and extraction of diseased teeth.
Did you know sneezing and nasal discharge can be some of the signs of dental disease?
Severe periodontal disease can lead to infection and inflammation of the tooth roots, and the tooth roots are quite close to the nasal passages (just a thin layer of bone separates them!). Congestion, nasal discharge, sneezing, and reverse sneezing are all potential signs that your pet needs to have an anesthetized oral exam and treatment. Swelling of the face right under the eye is also a sign of a tooth root abscess that will require extraction of the infected tooth. Other signs that your pet might have dental disease are dropping food, refusing food, chewing on one side of the mouth, or stopping playing with favorite toys.
Did you know that chronic dental disease can lead to other complications?
Dental disease can predispose dogs and cats to more severe infections, including endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the heart). Periodontal disease can lead to tooth root abscesses, chronic sneezing, bad breath, and changes in behavior. It can prematurely age pets and causes chronic pain. Pets who receive dental care have better overall quality of life and longevity. Pets with dental disease who receive a cleaning and extractions often act younger, eat better, and start to play with their toys again!
Did you know dogs and cats get almost as complete of dental care during their dental cleaning as humans do?
During a dental cleaning your dog or cat will have full mouth dental x-rays. If he or she needs to have any teeth extracted, a nerve block will be administered to reduce pain during the procedure. Necessary teeth are extracted based on signs of periodontal disease, root exposure, bone loss around the tooth, radiographic bone loss, signs of infection, or formation of resorptive lesions. Extraction sites are sutured closed with absorbable suture. Remaining teeth are scaled and polished. During this entire procedure a veterinarian, a certified veterinary technician, and a veterinary assistant are present and overseeing the procedure! These procedures can actually take quite a long time! Aside from orthopedic procedures, dental procedures are the longest surgery we do! Longer even than emergency surgeries like c-sections and foreign body removal which cost nearly twice as much! The pets go home with medications for pain, and antibiotics where necessary. A follow up recheck is scheduled to check for healing and to form a long term plan for dental care.
Did you know, having diseased teeth extracted will not affect your pet’s ability to eat, play, and enjoy life!
Pets with dental disease feel much better when their diseased teeth are extracted. Even when all of the teeth need to be extracted (it’s more common than you think!) both dogs and cats usually eat better than they did before (after an appropriate healing period of course!). It seems impossible to imagine that a mouth without teeth is better off, but remember, it’s also a mouth without disease! Routine dental care does keep teeth healthier for longer, reduces the number of extractions required, and makes the dental procedures much shorter.
Happy Pet Dental Health Month!