5 more (dangerous) myths about oral and dental health in cats and dogs

Sometimes it seems as the myths about oral and dental health in dogs and cats are endless. Let’s break a few more!

1. Bones are good for teeth

Simply stated – if the chewing treat or toy is so hard, that we cannot bend it and/or cannot make an impression with our fingernail into it, the treat or toy is too hard and we risk dental fractures if giving these treats to the animals. Bones (hoofs, horns, rocks, ice cubes and all the similar things) are not appropriate chewing treats for the animals. Moreover, if bones are swallowed, they may cause gastrointestinal obstruction or constipation.

2. Clipping or rocking a persistent deciduous tooth will help its’ exfoliation

No way! (And that is true for any, not just deciduous tooth – we do not clip teeth in piglets nor in rabbits and rodents – awful practices that we still see…). Rocking a deciduous tooth may lead to root fracture causing inflammation and infection.

Photo: Client with permission

Similarly, clipping a tooth will expose the dental pulp, which is extremely painful and will inevitably lead to inflammation and infection of the tooth. Therefore – persistent deciduous tooth needs to be surgically removed under anaesthesia by an experienced veterinarian.

3. Animals cannot eat without the teeth

If oral and dental diseases (eg., tooth resorption, periodontitis, stomatitis) are so severe, that a veterinarian recommends (based on full oral/dental examination and dental radiographs) the tooth/teeth to be removed, than the animal will feel much better without those tooth/teeth and will take food more readily.

Most of the animals will comprehend food much easier as soon as we eliminate the oral/dental pain. Although analgesia (painkillers) and soft foods are required during recovery post major dental extractions for 7-10 days, majority of the animals can return to their normal feeding regimes thereafter.

Photo: Client with permission

4. Bad teeth are bad for the heart and other organs

Untreated oral and dental diseases can be considered as chronically infected wounds that cause animals pain and discomfort. Microorganisms are also entering the bloodstream from these wounds and act as a potential source of inflammation and/or infection of distal organs and tissues. This has been widely researched in human and also veterinary medicine – studies show an association between oral and dental diseases and numerous systemic diseases, but the cause-effect link has not yet been determined. However – oral and dental diseases need treatment to provide oral (local) health and comfort to the animals.

5. Tissue swelling and tissue proliferation around the tooth is commonly a granuloma from a bad tooth

NO. Granuloma is one of the types of periapical disease (inflammation in the bone around the tooth apex due to endodontic disease), but it will not present itself as a tissue proliferation around the tooth in the oral cavity. If any tissue proliferation is noted in the oral cavity, it needs to be biopsied as soon as possible to determine, what the tissue is.

Extraction of the tooth is not indicated (it can mostly be considered contraindicated) in these cases, unless extraction is needed to obtained a better tissue sample.

Animals with any tissue swelling and/or tissue proliferation should also not be »blindly« treated with antibiotics (unless there is a strong suspicion of an acute abscess that cannot be properly diagnosed and treated on an emergency basis), but proper diagnostic procedures need to be performed to determine the cause of the tissue swelling and/or tissue proliferation as soon as possible.