Monthly Archives: February 2014

In Frederick, MD Rabbits Have Teeth Too!

Adult rabbits have 28 teeth.  There are two pairs of incisors in the upper jaw and one pair in the lower jaw.  The second pair of upper incisors are called “peg” teeth.  They are smaller teeth that sit behind the first pair of incisors.  When the mouth is closed, the lower incisors rest on the “peg” teeth.  Rabbits also have premolars and molars called “cheek” teeth.  There is a large space between the incisors and the “cheek” teeth which makes it easy to give oral medications when necessary.

Rabbit teeth have no enamel, wear down quickly and grow continuously.  Their diet plays an important role in keeping their teeth worn down. As the rabbit chews hay, the grinding action and abrasive texture helps keep the premolars and molars worn down. An improper diet can cause tooth problems, such as spurs, in as little as a few days.  Grass hay and greens wear the teeth down much more than pelleted diets do. 

Speculum used to do a complete oral exam.

Another cause of spurs is malocclusion.  Malocclusion is were the upper and lower teeth do not align properly.  When the rabbit grinds its food, the tooth surfaces do not meet properly and do not wear evenly causing a “point.”  Without proper grinding, spurs can form on the cheek teeth causing pain and ulcerations to the cheek tissue and/or tongue. 

Annual exams are important so the veterinarian can visualize the cheek teeth to make sure spurs have not developed.  If spurs are present, the rabbit will need to be anesthetized so those spurs can be filed down.  Medications, such as antibiotics and/or pain medication, may be prescribed.

If you notice your rabbit not eating well, drooling or producing fewer or smaller fecal pellets, these may be signs of an oral problem.  Call Kingsbrook Animal Hospital at 301-631-6900 so we may assist in helping your rabbit feel better.

Preventative Dental Care Recommendations from KAH

Want to know how you can keep your pet’s teeth clean at home and limit the frequency for anesthetized dental cleanings?  At home dental care is key to keeping your pet’s teeth in tip top shape.  There are a number of different products you can use at home, from simply giving a treat to daily brushing.  At home dental care can be easy as pie with the right products and approach.  

Dental treats come in a variety of shapes and flavors.  They can be found at just about any store in Frederick, MD from pet supply stores to grocery stores and even the dollar store.  So, how do you know which treats are actually helping your pet’s teeth?  A good way to find out is to check the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website at  Other good ways to make sure you are truly using a dental appropriate treat is if it is sold by your veterinarian, VOHC approved or made by Virbac.

CET Hextra chews for dogs and cats.

Chew treats for dogs are amongst the most popular treats seen on the market.  At Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, we recommend giving CET rawhide chews.  These chews are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.  CET chews not only prevent tartar accumulation on the teeth, but also provide great mental stimulation for your dog.  Dogs should not chew treats that are too hard due to the risk of fracturing a tooth.  If there is a fractured tooth, it will likely need to be removed.  The CET rawhide chews are not too hard and they love the flavor.  Greenies and CET Oral Hygiene Chews make great dental appropriate treats for cats too!  Please exercise caution and supervise your pet when giving any chew treat .

Greenies brand chews for dogs and cats.

DentAcetic dental wipes are another dental product approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.  These wipes work great for both cats and dogs and are an easy way to start a home dental care routine.  As you wipe the surface of the teeth, enzymes work to break down tartar.  Most pets tolerate them very well and they are so easy to use.
Dentacetic dental wipes.

Lastly, the best thing you can do for your pet’s teeth is to brush them.  First, choose a veterinary approved toothpaste that is safe for your pet to ingest.  CET enzymatic toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors including poultry, vanilla mint, and malt.  Human toothpaste is not safe for pets to swallow and should never be used. 

                           CET enzymatic toothpaste  

  Then introduce the toothpaste by simply offering it as a treat.  Once your pet has become accustomed to the taste, use your finger to rub the toothpaste along the teeth.  After your pet easily tolerates you rubbing his teeth with your finger, try introducing a tooth brush.  Ideally, brushing should be done daily, but every other day is sufficient in decreasing tartar.

Any at home dental care routine takes time, patience, and persistence.  Learn ways to incorporate a home dental care routine for your pet by CLICKING HERE to visit Kingsbrook Animal Hospital’s YouTube channel.

When Does My Pet Need Dental Radiographs?

Ranee taking dental radiographs on a patient.

In our last blog we discussed what a dental prophylaxis is and why your veterinarian might recommend one.  We touched briefly on dental radiographs. Now let’s go over WHY or WHEN your pet might need to have this done.  

Here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital we take routine dental care very seriously.  Getting into a daily routine for dental health can lengthen the time between dental cleanings, or better yet, help prevent needing them! I don’t know how many of you are in the habit of lifting up your pet’s lips and looking at his teeth, but I invite you to do so! Just like with a doctor’s physical exam- just by looking at the outside of the dog or cat a problem can be identified. A wound on the foot, or a loud dry cough. However the source of these problems are not always straightforward and radiographs are utilized to help the doctor determine the best course of treatment.

The same is true with veterinary dentistry. There are times during the oral examination of a pet’s yearly physical that a doctor can tell there is something abnormal and a dental with dental radiographs would be recommended. A malocclusion or missing tooth, perhaps. Other times we unexpectedly find an abnormality during a routine dental prophylaxis. In either case, the radiographs provide more information for the doctor to decide the appropriate course of treatment. Here is a list of things we see in the mouth that would warrant the need for a dental radiograph.

Bone loss around the caudal root of a
lower molar due to periodontal disease.

– Retained baby teeth-  these teeth can have long roots that are very near the adult teeth roots that are coming in. The doctors use these x-rays as a guideline to extract the retained teeth without damaging the developing adult teeth.

-Malocclusion- this is when the teeth are in the wrong position or the jaw is malformed so the pet’s “bite” is off. Often times a trauma will occur as a side effect of this. For instance if the lower jaw is too narrow- the lower canine teeth may poke up into the roof of the mouth. There a different treatment options for this, but radiographs are often needed as well.
-Discoloration- there are different reasons why a tooth is discolored. Trauma, death of the tooth, etc. Radiographs are typically recommended when a discolored tooth is identified.

– Feline resorptive lesions- these are like cavities in people. These are holes in the enamel at the gum line of the tooth and the sensitive tissue underneath is exposed. This is very painful for the cat. Radiographs help the doctor know if the roots of these teeth are still there and healthy or if they are what is called “resorbed” (kind of like dissolved). 

Abscessed caudal root
of the 4th premolar.

– Missing teeth. There can be a few reasons for  missing teeth. They never developed and really are not there. They are impacted under the gum line and are potentially problematic. The crown (the part you see in the mouth) has broken off and the roots are left under the gum line. We could never know what the reason for the missing tooth is without a radiograph. 

An impacted tooth is a tooth that never erupted but is fully grown and completely under the gum line- sometimes sideways! These impacted teeth can develop a type of cyst around them called a dentigerous cyst that is very destructive to the bone of the jaw. For this reason impacted teeth should always be extracted. Retained roots with crowns should also be extracted to prevent things like pain, infection and abscesses.

-Broken or Fractured teeth- sometimes these teeth can seal themselves off. If the pulp is left exposed, however, this is another potential source for pain, infection or an abscess.

Bone loss around the incisors.

 – Moderate to Severe periodontal disease- think wear and tear!- If a pet has a lot of tartar and gingivitis and it is left untreated a few things are going to happen. The gums are going to get really red and painful (gingivitis) and potentially infected, the gums are going to recede exposing more and more of the tooth that is supposed to be under the gum line, the tooth is going to become mobile or wiggly.  These three things all affect each other in a vicious cycle that ends up in the loss of the tooth, and most likely the teeth around it. Radiographs help us view how much damage or health there is associated with the tooth or teeth in question and if it can be saved or if it needs to come out. Our goal is always to save a tooth if we can.

Of course there are always things that I have not listed here when a veterinarian may feel a dental radiograph may be needed- a pet whose mouth looks outwardly fine but is not eating for instance.  But the most common reasons I have listed above.  Again, there are some routine things you can do to help keep your pet’s teeth as healthy as possible. If you’re in Frederick, MD and would like to learn about these, a technician would be happy to go over them with you so STOP BY!:)


What is a Veterinary Dental Prophylaxis?

Julie cleaning Blue’s teeth
Ultrasonic scaling of tooth surface

All of our pets will need a dental prophylaxis in their lifetime.  If you have any question of whether your pet needs a dental cleaning, the staff at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital would be more than happy to help.  The following is information to explain how a veterinary dental prophylaxis is performed.
Veterinary dental prophylaxis are done not only to clean and evaluate your pet’s teeth, but also to PREVENT oral and periodontal disease. Dental prophylaxis is a multi-step process that includes cleaning the surface of the teeth, and more importantly, cleaning sub-gingivally, or under the gum line. Plaque and calculus that accumulate under the gum line is what causes periodontal disease.

A veterinary dental prophylaxis at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital includes the following steps:

-Oral evaluation:  A veterinarian and a registered veterinary technician will evaluate your pet’s teeth, gums, tongue and inside of cheeks for potential infection, abnormalities or disease.

-Dental cleaning:  Calculus, or tartar, is removed from the tooth’s surface by hand scaling. Any tough tartar that remains on surface is then removed with an ultrasonic scaler.

-Subgingival cleaning:  A hand scaler called a curette, is used to remove tartar from underneath the gum line without causing damage to the gingiva.

-Polishing:  Smoothing the surface of the tooth decreases areas for bacteria and plaque to build up. Polishing also gets rid of small, hard to see debris still left on tooth after scaling.

-Irrigation:  The pet’s mouth is rinsed to remove any remaining debris from the teeth and tongue.

-Fluoride:  Applying fluoride after cleaning helps harden the tooth surface and prevent plaque build up.
-Dental Radiographs:  Whole mouth radiographs are often recommended to evaluate the bones of the jaw and roots of the teeth.  Abnormalities are found under a seemingly normal gum line.  Look to the future for the next Kingsbrook Animal Hospital blog on why your veterinarian might recommend dental radiographs!

-Dental charting:  Any findings such as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), missing, loose or to be extracted teeth are noted on a dental chart.  A dental probe is used between the gum line and tooth to see if any gingival pockets exist.  Gingival pockets can lead to tooth decay, abscesses or tooth loss and therefore are noted on the pet’s dental chart. The dental chart is saved in the pet’s record for future reference by the veterinarian.

Teeth after cleaning and polishing
Teeth before cleaning

If you have any questions regarding your pet’s oral health, please contact Kingsbrook Animal Hospital in Frederick, MD at 301-631-6900 and ask to speak to one of our friendly technicians.