Brush Up on Your Bicuspids: A Dog and Cat Tooth Tour

February 11, 2013

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, your pet needs daily toothbrushing and annual dental cleanings to keep their pearly whites white. Just like your visit to the dentist, where x-rays are taken to find periodontal disease or tooth abscesses, x-rays are a critical component of an annual dental cleaning for your dog or cat. Since most pet owners don’t get a chance to see their pet’s dental x-rays, I thought I would show you some from The Animal Medical Center.


Above, you see Spanky the cat’s six normal front teeth (incisors) flanked by his big fangs, also called canine teeth, even though he is a cat. Based on x-rays, the rest of Spanky’s teeth were normal and he did not have to have any teeth extracted during his annual dental cleaning.


In this x-ray you see one of Rhett Butler’s big molars. Both roots are surrounded by a dark area, instead of normal white bone. The dark area represents a periapical tooth root abscess which was the cause of his reluctance to eat and his swollen face. Once the tooth was extracted and he was treated with antibiotics, he recovered quickly.


Here you see dental x-rays of the right jaw of two different cats – Spanky on the left and Willie on the right. At first glance, the two look the same. If you look closely you will notice the third tooth in Willie’s x-ray appears moth eaten, especially on the left side of the tooth. The appearance is characteristic of a feline odontoclastic resorptive lesion (FORLS) or root resorption. Teeth with root resorptions need to be extracted as they can be painful and are prone to fracturing. The American Veterinary Dental College recommends cats affected by FORLS should be evaluated twice annually to detect and treat these lesions early.


Despite daily tooth brushing by her owner, Pippa has developed periodontal disease. You can see a pocket of bone loss around the two adjoining teeth. Both teeth had to be extracted during her annual dental cleaning.

Since I shared pictures of pets’ pearly whites, you might want to share yours!

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On Twitter: Use the hashtag #pearlywhitepets

Smile! It’s National Pet Dental Health Month

February 1, 2012

To promote good oral healthcare for cats and dogs, February has been designated National Pet Dental Health Month. I want to be sure pet owners are aware of some of the veterinary resources available to help keep pet mouths healthy.

Your primary care veterinarian
The first place to start to keep your pet’s mouth clean and healthy is your veterinarian’s office. An oral examination is part of an annual (or biannual if you have an older pet) examination. A quick look in your pet’s mouth will quickly reveal how effective tooth brushing is in keeping tartar under control. Your veterinarian can recommend special food and products to keep teeth healthy and also choose the right time for a full dental cleaning. Keep in mind rabbits also have dental problems from over grown teeth. Your veterinarian needs to see those bunny choppers once or twice a year if you have an older rabbit.

Board certified veterinary dentists
The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) is the nationally recognized certification body for veterinary dentists. In addition to earning a doctor of veterinary medicine degree, a board certified veterinary dentist has completed specialized training in veterinary dentistry under the guidance of a board certified mentor and successfully completed a certification examination. Your neighborhood veterinarian can provide routine dental care, but for big problems of teeth and gums, these highly trained veterinarians are the experts your pet needs. The AVDC also sponsors the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).

Seal of approval
The Veterinary Oral Health Council exists to recognize products that meet pre-set standards of plaque and calculus (tartar) retardation in dogs and cats. The Council is recognized worldwide through endorsements by organizations such as the British Veterinary Dental Association and the Australian Veterinary Dental Society.

Manufacturers of products designed to decrease plaque and tartar on the teeth can voluntarily submit their clinical studies performed according to VOHC standards. If the products meet the requirements, the VOHC awards a seal of approval. Pet owners will be happy to know some are their favorite products are on this list, including dental chews from Friskees and Greenies, and foods from Iams, Hills, Purina and Royal Canin. Regular use of products with the VOHC seal will decrease the severity of plaque and tartar in pets. For a list of products bearing the VOHC seal, click here.

Looking for more information?
In honor of National Pet Dental Health Month, the folks at Greenies and Trone Research have teamed up to demystify common misunderstandings about pet oral health.

The AMC website also has information about dental care in pets.

A question many pet owners have about dental cleanings in pets is related to the required anesthesia, the topic of a blog last year.

And finally, WebMD also has dental information resources for the pet owner. Check them out here!


This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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