Dental and Mouth Problems
One of the primary influences on a pet’s health is determined by the genetic code. An example of a genetically controlled trait can be seen or expressed in the mouth as a malocclusion (bad bite). In certain breeds of dogs an “under shot” jaw is considered normal, such as the Boxer and Bulldog, while for others, such as the Retrievers and Collies, it is not considered normal. An “over shot” or parrot mouth occlusion is not considered normal for any breed. While every pet is not entitled to a perfect mouth, every pet is entitled to a comfortable one. Minor expressions of either genetic trait can be corrected orthodonticly.
Another example of a genetically controlled dental trait is retained baby teeth that are seen most commonly in the small or toy breeds. While it is possible for any of the deciduous teeth to be retained the canine teeth are the most likely to be retained. Since two teeth can’t occupy the same space at the same time the resulting crowding leads to decay and possible misdirection of the permanent tooth.
Trauma can have a profound influence on the health of the mouth. The expression “curiosity killed the cat” can also be applied to the mouth when a cat chews on an electrical cord. If the cat survives the shock there is usually burns to the tongue and lips. Dogs have been known to get a stick or pieces of bone wedged across the teeth in the upper jaw or a marrowbone caught around both the lower canine teeth.
Car accidents provide the most severe trauma to the jawbone and teeth. Fortunately, as a result of the use of acrylic splints in the mouth, repair of jaw fractures has improved significantly. A vital pulpotomy can be performed on fractured teeth, where the pulp has become exposed, if it is done within 24-48 hours of the injury. Contouring and sealing of damaged teeth, when the pulp has not been exposed, can also be done.
Diseases such as cancer will have a major influence on the health of the mouth. One of the most common non-malignant growths seen on the gums is the fibrous epulis. In this case surgical removal is usually curative. Most of the other types of growths in the mouth are often aggressive, malignant tumors. This generalization seems particularly true with the feline species. In these cases early and aggressive surgical treatment is needed if there is going to be any chance of a cure. Unfortunately, even if aggressive surgery is performed these tumors, because they often invade the surrounding tissues, have a tendency to grow back rather quickly.
Infection and the pet’s immune response to that infection in the mouth can play an important role in the healing process as well as the quality of life. Due to the rich blood supply and subsequent rate of healing of the injured tissues in the mouth infection may not be a major concern. Furthermore, we are fortunate to have available many excellent antibiotics that will support an ideal environment for healing to take place.