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Doggy Dentistry Can Now Mean Braces
Date:12/23/2010

og's life. A veterinarian should check the "baby teeth" at around eight to 10 weeks of age, he said, and then again around six to eight months of age when the permanent adult teeth are present.

Most orthodontic problems that crop up in dogs are hereditary, he said. Breeds predisposed to such dental issues include Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, Shelties and Labrador Retrievers.

"Not all dogs are entitled to the perfect bite, but all dogs are entitled to a healthy, functional bite," said Carmichael.

Braces realign an abnormal bite to prevent problems, he said, such as difficulty eating, closing the mouth, or trauma to the teeth and gums.

Invisible braces -- a transparent, removable alignment originally developed for people -- are the latest tool in veterinary orthodontics. The primary benefit is that dogs only need to be sedated one time to create a mold of the teeth. Once the clear acrylic aligners are worn by the dog for as many hours a day as possible, he said, correction occurs in about four to six weeks, which is much faster than in human patients.

He said the condition most responsive to invisible braces is base narrow canines, or "linguoversion," where the lower teeth point inward, injuring the roof of the mouth.

Carmichael only sees one or two orthodontic cases a month that require some form of treatment. However, Baker of Northgate Veterinary Dentistry sees much more, about one dog a week (and occasionally cats) at his Midwest practice. Not all orthodontic cases, though, require braces to correct a bad bite. Other treatment options include extraction, surgery and tooth extensions.

Such dental problems, of course, are not something the average dog owner has to contend with. "The chances are, they won't be faced with the prospect of having to get their dog braces," said Carmichael.

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