Many health problems start in the mouth. Plaque, tartar, periodontal disease, and infected teeth serve as a source of inflammation and infection for the rest of the body. Dental disease is also a source of pain. There are many ways that dog and cat owners can help their veterinarian provide a healthy mouth for their pet. Our dental services at Colonial Animal Hospital include teeth cleaning and polishing, tooth extractions and minor oral surgery.


Dental disease can occur in pets of all ages, but if your pet is 3 years or older, he/she likely has tartar and plaque build-up on the teeth and probably needs a dental cleaning. Older pets that lack preventive dental care and cleanings will have advanced tartar build-up and some degree of gum disease. The problem begins when plaque and tartar are allowed to build up on your pet's teeth. Plaque harbors the bacteria which can infect gum tissue and the root system of the teeth. This causes pain and can result in healthy teeth having to be extracted because the root structure has been compromised.


Regular professional cleaning is important to maintaining your pet's health at any age. Dental cleanings must be performed under general anesthesia in order to properly and safely examine and clean the teeth. We use modern and safe ultrasonic equipment; each tooth is thoroughly cleaned above and below the gum line. Dental technicians polish the teeth to create a smooth, lustrous surface more resistant to plaque buildup.


After the teeth are cleaned and polished, your veterinarian will perform a thorough oral exam and check each tooth for any signs of dental disease (gum loss, root exposure, pockets around the root). Extensive dental disease requires the tooth to be removed (extracted). Many teeth require oral surgery to safely remove each individual root. We have extensive training and experience to perform these procedures properly. Oral nerve blocks are performed and additional injectable pain medications are administered if teeth are extracted. Your pet will also be sent home with oral pain medication. Pets recover quickly following these procedures, and, once the gums have completely healed, they resume eating their regular dry kibble even when multiple teeth are extracted.



Soft plaque on the teeth turns into hard tartar, and bacteria, food particles, and enzymes invade the gums, causing periodontal disease and a number of related health conditions in dogs and cats. Why do our pets have so many problems with their teeth?


In the wild, the texture of the natural diet helps clean the teeth as the wolf or wildcat gnaws on the hide and sinews of the prey that they devour. There aren’t a lot of loose particles of food to cling to the surface of the teeth. There is no doubt that our modern pet foods are more nutritious than the diets of these wild animals, but formulated foods do seem to encourage plaque and tartar accumulation.


In the past decade, dog and cat foods have been developed with the purpose of helping to remove plaque before it causes more serious dental problems. In order to do this, pet food researchers looked at a number of factors, including the size of the food pieces, the texture, the fiber content, and the manner in which the food breaks apart when chewed. Using these findings, they have been able to design foods that actually remove plaque and tartar as the dog or cat eats. We see definite improvement in the oral health of pets that are fed dental diets, even if it isn’t their only food.


Some pet owners feed a regular maintenance food in the morning, and give a dish of the dental diet as the evening feeding. Others use individual pieces of the dental diet as treats (it tastes great!). For pets with a serious tendency toward tartar problems, the dental diet can be fed as the only food, since it is a complete and balanced diet.