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“Chippy”, a small, 7year-old wiry haired terrier-cross was not as eager to eat his breakfast when he was brought to the vet recently. Chippy had no tummy pain, no problems with his heart and no other identifiable reason for being a little off colour. The only thing different was a small lump on his cheek.

The lump was soft and not painful but although Chippy is a gentle character, he would not let the vet look in his mouth. Gently pulling back a hairy lip, the teeth could be viewed, and although there was a small amount of tartar and slight redness on the gums, his mouth looked pretty good.

On close inspection, and on the same side as the lump, one of the molars looked a little discoloured. Highly suspicious of a tooth root abscess, Chippy was admitted for a dental exam under general anaesthesia. Sure enough, gentle probing around the tooth in question released the abscess and the smelly muck came out from behind the tooth.

The trick with teeth and our pets is that sometimes, even if the teeth look ok, they are hiding a multitude of problems. Tooth root abscess for example, like in Chippy’s case can fester away for some time with bacteria trapped deep to the tooth root. When the bacteria multiply and produce pus, the path of least resistance is up into the cheek, not down into the mouth, hence the appearance of a lump.

Less obvious signs of poor dental hygiene like tartar, red gums and broken teeth can cause chronic pain and plaque and tartar on the teeth are full of bacteria that can enter the blood stream and make our pets feel sick.

A simple dental can alert us early to signs there may be a dental dilemma and like Chippy, a full scale and polish with some extractions if required can get our pets back to their chomping best in no time.

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