Dental Disease

As you may be aware, dental disease not only affects us but can affect our much loved pets too, so regular checks are important in maintaining your pet’s gleaming white smile.

Our team here at North Nowra Veterinary Hospital are happy to check your pet’s teeth and go through what kind of treatments we provide for your pet’s dental hygiene. This may include the following:

  • Dental check – which involves examining the teeth and gums for any signs of tartar build up, gingivitis or tooth decay. This helps us to prevent further infection or problems getting out of hand.
  • Scale and Polish – Done under general anaesthetic (your pet is given support while asleep which includes being kept warm with a heat pad, bloods are taken before they are anaesthetised to ensure all health parameters are within a normal range, intravenous fluids are given to ensure a quick recovery and a manicure, pedicure and a ear pluck if necessary, which makes your pets make over complete!!) Your pets teeth are scaled and polished which involves scaling the tarter off each tooth and then polishing them until they shine
  • Extractions – Done at the same time as the scale and polish, the teeth are removed if only absolutely necessary with your consent
  • Each tooth’s pocket (the area between the tooth and the gum) is measured to insure there is no infection
  • Antibiotics and pain relief are given if required
  • The patient goes home with a Dental Care Starter Kit which includes a tooth brush, sample tooth paste and dental chews.

Dental X-rays – Why we recommend them

We are fortunate to have a dental x-ray machine to take images of your pet’s teeth when they visit us for a dental procedure. Dental x-rays are recommended because 2/3 of the tooth sits below the gum line, out of sight. Tartar and inflammation works its way under the gums and all the way to the root.

Dental x-rays enable Veterinarians to view additional problems that may not be visible on an oral examination. In one study over 50% of pets had problems that would not have been identified without dental x-rays.

Some problems that can be seen include, tooth root abscess, tooth resorption and bone loss which are all incredibly painful. If we can pick up these problems early and at the time of treatment it can save running into complications in the future.

Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats, and is entirely preventable. By three years of age, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, other than bad breath, there are few signs of the disease process evident to the owner, and professional dental cleaning and periodontal therapy often comes too late to prevent extensive disease or to save teeth. As a result, periodontal disease is usually under-treated, and may cause multiple problems in the oral cavity and may be associated with damage to internal organs in some patients as they age.


Plaque and tartar on teeth, without gingivitis (at worst, slight gingivitis) or loss of supportive structures. Grade 1 dental disease is when the brown layer of calculus just starts to form. The gums are still healthy and no teeth should need to be extracted at this stage. In an ideal world, we would do all of our dental cleanings at this stage and maintain it as often as needed to keep the teeth strong and healthy for an animal’s entire life.


Established gingivitis (increased inflammation and swelling of gums), loss of up to 25% of supporting soft tissue and bone around the tooth

Grade 2 dental disease is slightly more severe than Grade 1. A heavier layer of calculus has formed and there is obvious gingivitis. There is minimal bone loss at this stage and no gum recession. This disease is still reversible and no extractions should be needed unless there are fractured teeth or we find compromised roots on probing the pockets around the teeth or on dental x-rays.


Periodontitis, gum recession, periodontal pocketing due to extensive loss of supporting structure around teeth.

Grade 3 dental disease is where we are no longer in the “disease prevention” mode and are moving into “disease treatment” with our dental cleanings. These teeth have heavy calculus build up, severe gingivitis, and obvious gum recession. On x-rays we would be seeing irreversible bone loss around some teeth.

Animals with Grade 3 dental disease are very likely to need one or more extractions and their dental cleanings will be more extensive than those needed for Grades 1 & 2.

Grade 4

Grade 4 dental disease is the most severe level of dental disease. Looking in these mouths you almost see more tartar than teeth. Not only will these patients need many extractions, but some teeth may be falling out on their own. These are painful, diseased mouths and need attention sooner rather than later. It is amazing how much better these patients feel after their dental disease is resolved! And it is also important to follow up at least yearly with Grade 1 or 2 cleanings to maintain their remaining teeth and keep them from reaching this severe stage of dental disease again.

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