Dental Health

Easing pain and extending lives.

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Oral Prevention Counseling

adorable portrait of amazing healthy and happy adult black and white border collie in the photo studio on the black background
Nearly 85% of dogs and cats have some level of periodontal disease by the age of three. This is a staggering statistic that compels us, both as professionals and pet owners, to do better when it comes to the dental health of our pets. Periodontal disease is the infection and inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth. It progresses over time, and it causes silent pain. We call it “silent pain” because our dogs and cats suffer in silence when they are in pain, especially oral pain. In most cases, they may be in significant pain while still continuing to eat and act normally. However, there may be subtle signs that they are in pain such as not playing as much, eating a little slower, bad breath, and sleeping more. However, these signs are critical and may mean that your pet is suffering much discomfort. We will help you formulate the best plan for your pet and help you keep your pet’s mouth, and therefore entire well-being, healthy for as long as possible. This includes determining what you can do at home to prevent, or at least slow down, the buildup of plaque and tartar, which are the causes of periodontal disease, and determining the frequency of professional dental procedures needed to treat and prevent periodontal disease. We encourage you to call and schedule your dental consult appointment.

Professional Dental Cleaning

closeup Pug dog
We only use the term “professional dental cleaning” because that is what most pet owners and some veterinarians think of when their pet is going in for a “dental.” In truth, it is very misleading to think that your pet’s “dental” is merely a cleaning of their teeth because a properly performed dental procedure is so much more. The goal of any professional dental procedure is to remove infection, inflammation, and any source of pain and over 90% of this is under the gumline. This is why most veterinarians, and virtually all board-certified veterinary dentists, are adamantly opposed to anesthesia-free dental cleanings because it is impossible to thoroughly clean under the gums without anesthesia, especially when there is attachment loss and pocketing from periodontal disease which is very common. This is what is important to remember: cleaning the surface of the tooth will make the teeth look clean, but this does not remove infection and inflammation because they are caused by what is under the gumline, which is what you cannotsee. At Summer Creek Animal Clinic, we are passionate about providing your pet with the best dental care possible. This is done by focusing on prevention as well as thorough and appropriate treatment during a professional dental procedure also known as a Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT). The procedures that are necessary to provide this high level of care, and which we provide at Summer Creek Animal Clinic, are as follows:

  • Excellent anesthesia including placement of an IV catheter and IV fluids during anesthesia. See our Anesthesia services page for more details regarding how we provide excellent anesthesia at Summer Creek Animal Clinic.
  • Thorough oral exam with probing and charting of every tooth during every dental procedure.
  • Full-mouth dental x-rays during each annual dental procedure with adequate understanding and accurate interpretation of the x-rays.
  • A thorough cleaning of each tooth above and below the gumline.
  • Proper periodontal therapy performed wherever periodontal pocketing exists. This must be treated with a minimum of thorough root planing (cleaning) with specialized instruments.
  • A dental unit with high-speed drill capability to perform tooth extraction when needed, which is the most common treatment for advanced periodontal disease.
  • Dedication to continuing veterinary education because the dental training at most veterinary schools has historically been woefully inadequate.
See our Dental Prevention Plan for more details regarding how we can help you provide this level of care for your dogs and cats.

Digital Dental X-Rays

Border collie Ray
Many people assume that dental x-rays are being taken of their pet’s teeth because they expect their human dentist to take x-rays. Unfortunately, this cannot be assumed in veterinary dentistry, although more and more veterinarians are utilizing dental x-rays each year. The reason dental x-rays of every tooth are so important is because the majority of the diseases that we treat are under the gumline, and dental x-rays are the only way we can thoroughly evaluate all of the structures surrounding each tooth to determine the level of disease. Our pets cannot tell us where it hurts, but fortunately, digital dental x-rays allow us to see what they cannot tell us. Furthermore, x-rays should be taken at least annually, particularly in small-breed dogs and cats. At Summer Creek Animal Clinic, we provide the highest quality of digital dental x-rays for dogs and cats, and Dr. McCorkle has completed extensive training in accurate x-ray interpretation and treatment planning. See our Dental Prevention Plan for more details regarding how we can help you provide this level of care for your dogs and cats.

Periodonal Therapy

Russian Blue Cat
Periodontal disease affects the structures surrounding the teeth. This includes the gum tissue, the surrounding bone, and the periodontal ligament that attaches the tooth to the bone. Plaque and tartar buildup on the tooth’s surface and under the gum line causes infection and inflammation of the periodontal tissues. Unchecked, the infection and inflammation will go deeper and deeper into the tissues around the teeth. If caught early during a thorough professional dental examination, it can be treated and even reversed. If upon periodontal probing of a tooth an abnormal pocket is found that is less than 5mm, a process called “closed root planing” can be performed, which is a thorough removal of the plaque, tartar, and infected granulation tissue from under the gumline. Following this treatment, products called perioceutics and bone augmentation material can be placed in this pocket to promote regeneration of the lost bone and healthy reattachment of the gums to the root surface. This must be combined with adequate at-home oral hygiene techniques (ideally daily teeth brushing) and regular professional dental cleanings (generally every 9-to-12 months) to have the best chance of success. At Summer Creek Animal Clinic, we are able to provide this high level of care for your pets. See our Dental Prevention Plan for more details about how we can help you provide this level of care for your dogs and cats.

Teeth Extractions/Oral Surgery

Face of dog
An unfortunate, but often very necessary, part of treating your pet’s oral cavity disease (periodontal disease, broken teeth, developmental problems, etc.) is the extraction of some teeth. The most common reason why teeth must be extracted is advanced periodontal disease. The good news about extracting teeth is that those areas will never again suffer infection, inflammation, or pain from periodontal disease. Adult dogs have 42 teeth and cats have 30 teeth. Only eight teeth in each species are really functional for our domesticated pets. These are the four chewing teeth in the back of the mouth, and the four grasping teeth in the front of the mouth (the canine teeth). Tooth extraction is often necessary because it is always better for our pets to be pain free and not have chronic infection and inflammation in their mouth. Therefore, having a high skill level and efficiency with the extraction of teeth is very important for any veterinary dental service.

Oral surgery such as surgical gum flaps, teeth sectioning, and more must be performed when teeth must be extracted. During such procedures, it is vitally important that your veterinarian perform dental x-rays of all teeth being extracted before and after the extraction to ensure as much as possible that all of the tooth structure was removed so no infection is left behind. It is also important that your veterinarian has been trained in the latest techniques, has experience with surgical extractions, and has the proper equipment to skillfully perform such procedures. At Summer Creek Animal Clinic, we have invested in the best equipment and training. Furthermore, Dr.McCorkle has completed Dr. Brook Niemiec’s Level 1 and Level 2 dental courses, and he is a member of Brett Beckman’s Dental Academy where he is receiving ongoing training and having discussions with veterinarians around the world to provide the highest possible level of veterinary dental care (Dr. Niemiec and Dr. Beckman are board certified veterinary dentists). See our Dental Prevention Plan for more details regarding how we can help you provide this level of care for your dogs and cats.

Fractured/Broken Teeth Treatment

Grey fluffy cat with green eyes close-up
The second most common disorder we see in our patient’s mouths, particularly dogs, is broken teeth. This is often caused by chewing on hard objects or bones, which is common with dogs. Many pet owners unwittingly give their dogs bones and toys to chew on that have a high risk of fracturing their teeth because a salesperson at a pet store or a neighbor told them it was good for their dog’s teeth. In reality, if you cannot slightly bend or slightly dig your finger into what your dog is chewing, then it has a high risk of fracturing your dog’s teeth. The poster-child for this is the deer antler. They are hard as a rock and have caused many dogs to suffer the pain of a broken tooth, and they suffer in silence because they do not tell their owners it hurts. There are many things that pets can get hold of that can easily fracture their teeth including rocks, sticks, and nuts. Many veterinarians will only treat fractured teeth if they are “really bad.” This is unfortunate because any exposure of a tooth’s structure under the enamel is painful just like cavities are painful for humans. At Summer Creek Animal Clinic, we can provide treatment for your dog’s mild (uncomplicated) tooth fracture through a treatment called “bonded sealant.” If the fracture is more severe (complicated) and the pulp chamber is involved, then the tooth must be either extracted or root canaled because a tooth with pulp exposure is very painful, and the tooth will die and become infected. At Summer Creek Animal Clinic. we can provide surgical extraction of any tooth, but we will refer you to a board-certified veterinary dentist we work closely with if a root canal is appropriate for your pet. See our Dental Prevention Plan for more details regarding how we can help you provide this level of care for your dogs and cats.

Oral Examination

Happy healthy Jack Russell Terrier dog puppy chewing bone for cleaning teeth
There is much we can determine during a thorough oral examination while your pet is awake. We can detect fractured teeth and ascertain the extent of any periodontal disease. We can also look for obvious oral masses or excessive gingival tissue. Lastly, we can look for missing teeth, which may indicate that a tooth never formed, which is often completely acceptable, or that the tooth did not erupt properly and is stuck in the bone. The body does not like this and will usually form a cyst around the impacted tooth, destroying the surrounding bone. This can go unnoticed for many years and sometimes is not discovered until severe damage has been done to the bone. This process is much more common in dogs with flat faces (bulldogs, Shih Tzus, boxers, etc.). All of the issues mentioned above warrant a thorough professional dental procedure under anesthesia to more completely evaluate the mouth through oral probing and full-mouth dental x-rays. See our Dental Prevention Plan for more details regarding how we can help you provide this level of care for your dogs and cats.