Did you know that 85% of dogs that are between the ages of 3 and 4 years of a are walking around with a disease???  A DISEASE!!!!!!

Dental disease is the most common disease of dogs and cats, yet remains the most undiagnosed and untreated disease in veterinary medicine… well it might be discussed during an exam but we are not getting all of our patients into the dental suite for procedures.  Only a small number of these pets are being treated safely and effectively.  Below are some frequently asked myths regarding dental care for pets.


1 year old dog with a tooth fracture that was found on wellness/vaccination visit

Bad breath is NOT normal.  It is a sign of disease.  This could range from simple gingivitis to advanced periodontal disease.  Other possibilities include foreign bodies, abscessed teeth, oral tumors or other body system disease.  Bad breath should be investigated and treated safely and effectively as soon as possible!  We always say DOG BREATH = INFLAMMATION AND/OR INFECTION! A little stale odor may be normal but not halitosis.


It ***IS*** 100% absolutely possible to have a good appetite and have MAJOR dental disease.  Animals cannot talk so they have no choice but to live in pain and discomfort.  Not eating in the wild would make them more susceptible to predators, lower their place in the pecking order and lead to their eventual demise.  Have you ever been to an all you can eat buffet? Check it out. Look at the people there. Maybe someone is in a cast, maybe there is someone on a walker, maybe you see a little child with their arm in a sling or maybe a baby is crying and has an ear infection.  All of those people provably hurt… but they are still eating and enjoying the buffet.  Oral Pain rarely makes a human stop eating.  We change what we are eating…hot/cold/soft/hard, but we still eat.  It is very rare for a pet to stop eating with oral pain.

The picture below is of a 15 year old small dog that was still eating but having trouble keeping her jaw closed… the dental disease had eroded her jaw bone to the point of causing a fracture…and her teeth were being eaten away too. She was still eating!!!

Dental Disease progressed to causing a broken jaw.


MYTH – Dry foods prevent dental disease! KINDA DEPENDS… So not a total bust.
It depends on the brand of the food involved.  In general, there may be less dental disease with dry foods versus canned food. The difference is not significant, however there are dry foods that are specifically formulated to reduce the accumulation of plaque which have passed specific tests to prove their label claim.  The diets and treats are clearly marked with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal. has a shopping list!


MYTH – Dental disease is a new condition, it never happened to my pets growing up.  BUSTED!!!

Dental disease has always been present in our pets.  However, in recent years there has been a change in a pet’s role from an outside dog that ate leftover food to our faithful companion that sleeps in the house or even our beds.  These pets are often times considered to be members of the family or even like a child.  This has increased the level of care many people expect for their pets.  We suspect animals with good oral health would live longer and have a better quality of life.  We believe every animal is entitled to a pain free mouth.  Also education to veterinary students is increasing and beginning to cover topics like oral health as a preventative disease.


MYTH – Nothing can be done to control dental disease. BUSTED!!!
Daily brushing is the most effective prevention and only takes 1 minute per day once your pet is trained.  There are also some special foods that reduce calculus formation as well as rinses and special treats.  It is necessary to start with clean teeth regardless of the method you choose.

We have a handout we can email you – just ask for The UVH Oral Home Care handout!  Awesome videos here…

MYTH – Having my groomer brush my pet’s teeth is helping. BUSTED!!!
Brushing must be performed with good technique at least every other day to be effective.  Brushing the teeth once every 4-6 weeks only gives a *perception* something is being done when it is really of no value.  Another consideration is the discomfort caused by using a toothbrush on inflamed gums which could be torture to your pet.  Best to start brushing at a young age so they learn to be comfortable with the 1 minute and best time to start is also after a professional cleaning.


How much dental disease do our dog and cat patients really have???


MYTH – Anesthesia free dentistry is a great option.  BUSTED!!!
This is currently the most divisive topics in veterinary dentistry today and maybe of all time.  Dental radiographs are essential to accurately diagnose conditions in the mouth.  In order to take diagnostic films and prevent equipment damage and pain or anxiety to your pet, general anesthesia is performed.  Once a mouth has been cleaned and all disease treated, it MIGHT be possible to have the teeth cleaned on a regular basis as more of a preventative measure.  Keep in mind, dental radiographs will need to be performed at intervals based on your pet’s history – and that will require anesthesia.

In general, non-anesthetic dental care is dangerous to the patient as well as ineffective for a full diagnosis and appropriate treatment of painful or infected teeth.  Unfortunately, there are many non-anesthetic providers who take advantage of pet owners’ fear of anesthesia.  There are reputable companies in some states who provide non-anesthetic dental services under the care of a licensed veterinarian as a preventative measure.  Sometimes, pet owners will feel more comfortable trying a non-anesthetic method before consenting to a more thorough anesthetized procedure.  This allows an experienced technician to get a closer look in the mouth to document disease.  This thought process seems logical on the surface, however in the only publish study on non-anesthetic dentistry, the technician recommended dental radiographs in 100% of the cases which makes the non-anesthetized cleaning with disease present less valuable.  At this time UVH does not recommend this type of cleaning.


MYTH – All vet clinics clean teeth in the same manner. BUSTED!!! 

All dental cleanings are not equal!  In some clinics, a dental cleaning only takes 15 minutes.  These cleaning barely clean the surface of the teeth, leaving much bacteria and calculus under the gumline where you cannot see it.  This would be similar to you washing your car when it really needs the transmission serviced.   They may not do any harm, but at the same time, did not do much good.

A professional dental cleaning procedure which includes a thorough cleaning above and below the gum-line (using sub gingival ultrasonic cleaners), a tooth-by-tooth exam and charting of important findings, full-mouth dental radiographs and before and after pictures can take 1.5 hours in a dog and 1 hour in a cat.   Once the mouth is fully evaluated, treatment can be performed which may be 15 minutes or multiple hours in cases of severe disease.  **It is extremely important to have a veterinarian who likes providing dental care, has the necessary equipment and training, and a dedicated support staff to help ensure a successful outcome that will help your pet.  Most of the time, patients will be at the clinic for most of the day and go home that evening.


MYTH – Anesthesia is not safe for pets.  BUSTED!!!
Anesthetic safety is our primary concern.  All anesthetic procedures carry some level of risk.  However, in most cases the risk of well-balanced general anesthesia is much lower than the risk of untreated dental disease.  READ THAT AGAIN!!! We take many precautions to decrease anesthetic risks in our patients including, but not limited to, a thorough pre-anesthetic physical exam, pre-anesthetic blood work, individualized anesthetic protocols, IV fluid support, and an assistant dedicated to anesthetic monitoring and support.  Your pet always has a nurse and a doctor during their procedure. We take pride in curtailing your pet’s anesthesia protocol to their condition, their breed, their species, their age, and what we will be performing.

Monitoring your pet at UVH…  Anesthetic monitoring is a combination of physical observations and measurement of vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, eye position, jaw tone and body temperature.  Once we have this information, it is then necessary to make adjustments to maintain safe anesthesia during the procedure.  This is best accomplished by utilizing a trained assistant/nurse who is constantly present during the procedure to make observations and pass the information along to the doctor.  Most anesthetic complications are a result of too much anesthesia and inappropriate monitoring.  At UVH we use oral nerve blocks to numb the sites that will have surgery, this allows us to have patients on a lighter level of anesthesia making the procedure much safer.  With good technique, complications are very rare.  You likely face much more risk each day driving your car.  At UVH we are constantly training our doctors and nurses about anesthesia.


MYTH – Every vet clinic does pet dentistry the same.  BUSTED!!!

Apples to Apples??? Most of the time there is a HUGE difference in the level of services offered.  One clinic may just anesthetize the pet, clean the tartar off the teeth, and wake them up.  Others will perform a more in-depth cleaning and polish the teeth to help reduce (but not stop) further accumulation of plaque.  Still another clinic may do this plus have the equipment and training to take x-rays, diagnose disease, and offer treatment for these conditions.  You must compare apples to apples, which can be challenging for a client with little knowledge of animal healthcare.  You should be able to ask as many questions as you like and make sure you feel comfortable with what you are getting for your pet.
It is true you get what you pay for.  If you want effective, safe therapy you will end up paying for it and your pet will appreciate it!

At UVH, every patient has curtailed anesthesia plans, a nurse and a doctor for the procedure, IV catheters, ventilation, sterile instruments, full mouth intra-oral radiographs, tooth by tooth cleaning and charting allowing disease diagnosis, and our doctors are trained in cat and dog oral surgery, with several taking advanced courses.


MYTH – All Dental Cleanings are the same.  BUSTED!!!

When we talk about lower level cleanings, we are talking about just a cleaning or maybe a cleaning with limited dental radiographs or minimal veterinary oversight.  Consider that most of the disease issues are below the gums.  If only the visible parts of the teeth are cleaned, this is nothing more than a cosmetic cleaning which will not decrease discomfort or bacterial absorption.  You allow your pet to be put under anesthesia and only make their teeth look OK on the surface yet the disease is raging beneath the gums.  That is risk without benefit.

Simple cleanings have some value, however we are reluctant to say they are worth the risk of anesthesia and the cost associated with them.  As an example, if the teeth are cleaned and loose teeth are removed, it is estimated that 75% of disease is left behind.  If you consider the less expensive nature of the procedure it seems reasonable, however, your pet will still have pain and infection.  This does NOT represent value and can create a false sense of security because you thought everything was OK.  You must remember your pet, most likely, did not show you any indication they were painful before.  In the end, there is no significant and log lasting benefit.  Many times the breath will smell better for a few weeks then returns to nasty dragon breath.

Once established disease is diagnosed and treated, some patients may be able to have a lesser level cleaning as a maintenance procedure in the future, especially if you are committed to diligent home care.  This is more likely to be the case in really young animals or follow up cases when severe disease has been treated.


MYTH – My pet will let me know when it is time to treat their dental disease?  BUSTED!!!
Most conditions, if left untreated, will be a source of pain and infection which allows bacteria into the bloodstream, potentially leading to organ dysfunction and a shortened life span.  Many pets will suffer in silence and “slow down” as if they are just getting old.  Once the pet is treated properly they usually become a more youthful version of themselves.  Most pet owners, even the most astute, rarely pick up on subtle signs of disease.  It is only after treatment that clients will recognize what they thought was “normal” was actually evidence of pain or infection.


This cat is “acting” normal but has major dental disease with pus and tartar and gum recession with bone loss.


MYTH – Dogs and cats cannot survive or be healthy without teeth  BUSTED!!!

How many teeth does my dog or cat need to survive and be healthy?  Zero!!  A domestic dog or cat does not need any teeth and many times they are better without them.   Extractions is the most common dental procedure.  In some cases, it may make sense to remove all the teeth at once rather than having to have the few remaining teeth cleaned every 6-12 months as a significant expense.

There are strategic teeth which serve a more significant function but there are not any essential teeth.  Sometimes it is just better to have no teeth than to battle infection or experience pain.


MYTH – Dogs and Cats cannot eat without teeth?  BUSTED!!!
How will your pet eat after extracting infection/diseased teeth? The short answer is “better”! Teeth are not necessary in pet dogs and cats.  Once we determine that a tooth is painful, or infected beyond repair, it is better to be without that tooth or teeth than to have continued pain or infection.  Infected Teeth are similar to a splinter in your thumb.  We can still write and type and use our hands with splinters that are causing pain…  but removing the splinter solves the pain and possible infection.  The same goes for teeth.

Animals rely on instinct to survive and will continue eating in spite of dental pain.  We commonly see animals act younger and eat better once the pain and infection is removed.

With that being said, there are plenty of times when saving a tooth makes sense (ie root canals/endodonic therapy).  When we evaluate the mouth, we will give the pet owner all the available options and we can make the decision together that best suites them and their pet.  Referral to a dental specialist in Dallas or Baton Rouge may be the best recommendation to save a tooth.


MYTH – My pet will have trouble eating after tooth extractions.  BUSTED!!!!
We will have you add hot water to their regular food to make it soft or offer canned food.  You will do this for 7-14 days, depending on the surgery, to allow the mouth to heal.  After 2 weeks has past, he or she can return to dry food.  Most animals without any teeth actually **prefer** hard food.  Pet food, unless it is specifically formulated for oral health, is not designed to be chewed.  Most animals throw their food back and swallow it whole. Think back to a time when your pet threw up.  The food was likely whole and soaked in saliva.



We understand that you have fears about dentistry and your pet.

Come tour.

Watch UVH Dental videos.

We really look forward to making you comfortable about the procedure and your pet comfortable after the procedure!  #petsneedoralcaretoo #uvhvets

UVH Dental Education Videos –

Dr. Cat helping pets feel better through healthy mouths!