Message Number: YG7141 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Debra Thomason
Date: 2001-09-09 16:18:00 UTC
Subject: RE: Scaling Teeth

> It's my understanding that scaling at home may not be such a good
> idea. The teeth need to be polished afterwards otherwise the rough
> surface that's left on the teeth from scaling just promotes faster
> buildup of more tartar and plaque.
> Any dental technicians out there that can comment on this?

I e-mailed this to my sister, who has been a dental hygienist for over 10
years. I *did* remember to point out that I was asking in reference to
ferrets, not humans! Here is her answer:
____________ <begin quote>

Many dental hygiene schools are currently teaching "selective polishing" in
which only those teeth with visible plaque or stain are polished. I
personally polish all teeth and will continue to do so, as most patients
expect this because "that's the way we've always done it". While scaling
leaves evidence that can be seen under say, a scanning electron microscope,
many dental offices perform "Scaling and Root Planing" of teeth at one
visit, and the teeth are not polished until a subsequent visit after
(typically) a six-week healing period (this appointment is often referred to
as "Fine Scale and Polish"). The office I work at does polishing at the
SC/RP appointments.

This all being said, I have always had the impression that at a typical
"Dental" visit at a veterinarian, they mostly used an ultrasonic scaler on
the teeth and that was it. I do stress the word *impression*, as I have
never asked about it.

Also, I really don't know about the speed at which periodontal disease
develops in ferrets. This would have some influence on the question. Since
humans keep their teeth for (hopefully) something like 60+ years, it is
important to do everything we can to slow the reaccumulation of
bacteria/plaque/calculus. So my question to you is, how fast does
periodontal disease progress in proportion to the life span of a ferret? In
a dog, like Bandit [a terrier/dachshund mix], for instance, she was 16 and
lost a few teeth. Now 16 years is a long life for a dog, and she only lost
a couple of teeth. So while doggy perio must progress more quickly than
human perio, she was still a lot better off toothwise than a lot of humans.
And when we look at this, we have to remember that since she had paws which
lacked opposable thumbs and had arms too short to reach the faucets to turn
the water on, Bandit was definitely not a daily brusher or flosser.

My opinion is that by scaling a ferret's teeth at home, you are making a
significant stride in preventing disease (calculus, under the same SEM looks
kind of like dried coral... lots of hidey-holes for bacteria... enamel is
much smoother, even after scaling w/o polishing). Is the little bit of
benefit you get from polishing worth the stress on your pet and wallet?
Probably you can see evidence of the pumice particles left on the teeth
using a SEM anyway, following polishing.

The lengthy opinion of a Registered Dental Hygienist.

<end quote>____________________

Now I have not yet tried extracting the best possible *succinct* answer to
her question about the progression of periodontal disease in ferrets or
explaining tooth wear in the pet ferret population from Bob C.'s info, but I
think that it would most likely not change her answer much. Just lead her
state that doing what we can as owners to provide regular home oral
maintenance and discussing how often to consider professional cleaning with
our vets will be best for our pets. I believe her answer about scaled and
unpolished enamel providing less of a breeding ground for bacteria than
calculus would stand regardless. The other thing to do would be to talk to
your vet about the exact treatment your ferret gets when you schedule a
cleaning. If they do simple scaling and you want more, you might need to
see if there are veterinary specialists in dental work in your area that do
any more. And finally, if you are going to scale your pets teeth, be sure
you know how to scale properly. It is important that the majority of the
force used parallels the tooth, not pushes against it (from my own days
scaling teeth, long ago).

Perhaps when my fogged brain clears a bit in another week or so (recent
significant blood loss... still have low blood pressure and anemia, but hope
to improve soon) I'll dig out the best answers I can and see if I'm wrong
about her answer changing!

Debra in Fort Worth