In 13 years of practice I've seen some really bad dental infections. But today I saw one of the worst in my career. He's a dachshund around 12 years old and when my associate saw him a few days ago she knew that he would need some teeth pulled. But none of us knew just how bad it would really be when he came in today.
We got him under anesthesia and before my assistant started doing any cleaning I figured that I'd see how many teeth would be left to actually clean. Within a matter of a couple of minutes I had pulled almost every tooth on the right side of his mouth! The odor was unbelievable and even made me have to breathe shallowly. Most of the teeth were literally held in the mouth by extensive dental calculus. The tartar went to the bottoms of many roots and the gums were rotting away due to the extent of the infection. When I extracted the upper canine teeth (those long teeth, sometimes called "eyeteeth" in people), I quickly noticed that there was a direct hole into the nasal passages (an oronasal fistula if you want the medical term) and blood started coming from the nose. This isn't uncommon when you have extensive periodontal disease, as the roots of these teeth pass just under the sinuses and when infection is this bad the bone is eroded, thus allowing a connection between the nose and the mouth.
The pattern continued with no tooth unaffected. By the time I was finished I had extracted EVERY tooth in this dog's mouth due to the severe infection and bone loss. The front of the lower jaw was unstable due to the degree of bone infection, though this will hopefully heal. The dog went home on antibiotics and pain medications and will need to eat soft food for the rest of his life.
The sad thing is that this was preventable and didn't need to reach this point. Seeing the vet regularly would have led to this being noticed in the early stages when a routine cleaning could have been done without waiting for infection. And there are many ways to do preventative dental care, such as dental-specific diets, treats, toys, rinses, and tooth brushing. I would recommend everyone check out the Veterinary Oral Health Council's web site to see more information on periodontal disease as well as dental care products they have endorsed.
Want to see what the teeth looked like? I'm going to be talking about this on my webshow on Gabcast.tv tonight and showing some of the teeth I extracted. Join me live at 9:15EDT/6:15PDT, or check it out afterwards in the archived section of the Pet channel.