Animal Specialty Center


What is a veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery?

A veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery is a licensed veterinarian who has additional training in the following areas:

  • Periodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Restorative dentistry
  • Oral surgery
  • Prosthodontics
  • Orthodontics

While your general practitioner veterinarian can perform routine teeth cleanings and dental examinations, certain problems require the care of a doctor who has had specialized training in veterinary dentistry in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet. Your veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery will work closely with your general practitioner veterinarian to resolve your pet's dental problems.

Why Does My Pet Need professional veterinary dental care?

Just as your own primary care physician may feel the need to refer you to the care of a specialist from time to time, your general practitioner veterinarian may feel your pet needs the additional expertise of a veterinarian who has advanced dental training for certain conditions, such as root canal therapy or oral surgery. In addition, this veterinarian has access to specialized diagnostic or treatment equipment that can enhance the outcome of your pet's case, as well as specialized knowledge about the most appropriate pain control and medication options needed to treat your pet's dental problem.

It is very important to remember that dental disease is the most common problem to affect small animals of any age. In fact, veterinary experts estimate that up to 80% of dogs and 70% of cats that do not receive proper dental care will develop signs of dental disease by the age of three. For these reasons, it is very important that your pet receives regular dental care and cleanings from your general practitioner veterinarian and, when required, more advanced care from a veterinarian with advanced dental training. (Note: Some veterinarians routinely refer all clients for that aspect of a pet's health care.)

You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet to a veterinarian with advanced dental training is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of care for his or her problem.

What Kinds of Problems Require the Expertise of a Veterinary Dentist?

A veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery can perform all routine veterinary care, such as routine dental examinations and cleanings. They are specially trained, however, to handle more complicated problems such as oral surgery, endodontics ( root canal therapy), complicated surgical extractions, prosthodontics (crown therapy), and orthodontics (yes, pets can wear braces, too!). Oral masses or lesions can also be examined by a veterinarian with advanced training in oral disease.

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

Your regular veterinarian will still supervise your pet's overall veterinary care, and will consult with the referral veterinarian regarding any pre or post treatment care. In general, the referral veterinarian treats the problem and reports findings and recommendations back to your general practitioner veterinarian. In some practices, only non-routine or complicated cases are referred; in other practices, all dental care is referred.

Signs That A Pet May Need Dental Care:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling or excessive salivation
  • Pawing at the teeth or mouth
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth
  • Visible tartar on the teeth
  • Red, irritated, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Difficulty eating
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Swelling under the eyes
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and loss of vitality

Did You Know?

It is common for dogs and cats to not display signs of dental disease. Although broken and loose teeth are painful, pets often either chew on the opposite side of the mouth or swallow the food whole to avoid showing signs of pain. Despite this common lack of clinical symptoms of dental disease, it is important to seek treatment due to the discomfort and infection that can be present.

  • Dogs have 42 permanent teeth while cats have 30.
  • Symptoms of gum disease in dogs and cats include yellow and brown tartar buildup along the gum line, inflamed gums, and bad breath.
  • Smaller breeds of dogs and greyhounds are highly predisposed to developing severe periodontal disease.
  • Dental problems can be a cause of weight loss and loss of appetite in older pets, particularly cats. To rule out an underlying disease, it is recommended that all older pets receive an examination, including blood-testing and, if warranted, chest x-rays, prior to their dental procedure.
  • Orthodontic devices are available for pets with bite abnormalities that need correction.

Tooth Talk NewsletterTooth Talk Newsletter

Tooth Talk is a monthly newsletter devoted to the topic of veterinary dentistry for companion animals and is produced for the veterinary community. Written by Dr. Mary Buelow (practice limited to dentistry), it's an educational resource featuring topical articles about dentistry and dental surgery protocols and techniques as well as interesting case studies.

Download our Tooth Talk newsletters to print them out or read on your computer or mobile device.


Mary Buelow, DVM 
Diplomate, The American Veterinary Dental College

Office hours: Appointment's are facilitated through referring veterinarian only.
Please call 24 hours in advance during office hours for all medication and food refills.


Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Periodontal Disease In Dogs and Cats?

This disease is the most common mouth problem in dogs and cats. Periodontal disease is an infection caused by the bacteria found in dental plaque. Unfortunately, bacteria can be present on even healthy looking teeth. Gingivitis, which is the first stage of periodontal disease, is an inflammation of the gum area that can be seen as reddened and swollen gums. Gingivitis is the only visible sign of periodontal disease. A complete oral examination with dental radiographs and periodontal probing performed under general anesthesia is the only way to appropriately identify the extent and severity of periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease first occurs when plaque and tartar begin to build up on your pet's teeth. In the beginning, plaque might simply appear to be discoloration or staining on the teeth. Without regular brushing, however, this plaque builds up and turns into tartar, or calculus. This is the visible material you can sometimes see encrusted on the teeth and along the gum line of a pet's mouth. Tartar can eventually damage the bone around your pet's teeth that holds the teeth in place. It can dig into the gums at the base of your pet's teeth and form pockets, where bacteria can become trapped and cause serious infections.

This condition is very serious in pets because, if left unchecked, it eventually leads to the destruction of each affected tooth's supporting structures, causing pain, infection, and tooth loss. The infection also results in bacteria entering the bloodstream and damaging other organs or body systems in your pet, such as the kidney, liver, and heart. This complicates other underlying diseases, such as diabetes or chronic renal disease.

Why Is Proper Dental Care for Cats and Dogs So Important?

Imagine what your mouth and teeth would look and feel like if you never brushed them or visited your dentist. That unappealing picture is the same for your pet. Without proper dental care, your pet will most likely suffer from bad breath, inflamed gums, missing, loose, or broken teeth, and all of the pain and discomfort such problems can cause. In addition, veterinary experts have found that dental disease can also lead to systemic health problems in dogs and cats. The good news, however, is that dental disease is easily prevented by following your veterinarian's recommendations regarding dental examinations, home care, and dental cleanings.

How Can Dental Disease in Pets Be Treated?

The best answer is with prevention. Starting at the age of one year, your pet should have an annual dental examination. While the damage caused by periodontal disease is generally irreversible, it can be stopped and treated with antibiotics and regular cleaning. In between your pet's examination, you should follow your veterinarian's advice regarding home dental care for your pet, including daily tooth cleanings and special dental care diets and treats. There are several stages of periodontal disease. The first stages can be treated with cleanings, medications, and subgingival cleaning. At the later stages, surgery is necessary to treat the affected teeth.

Why Is A Dental Cleaning Important for My Pet?

A thorough cleaning removes plaque and tartar both above and below the gum line. This is necessary to prevent periodontal disease and all the associated health problems that we have outlined above. While dental cleanings may seem like an added expense, they are actually a very cost effective investment in your pet's continued good health. Caught early, dental problems are easy to treat. Neglected, they can turn into serious and painful problems.

Does My Pet Really Need to Be Anesthetized?

While the quality of dental care we can now offer to pets is very similar to what humans enjoy, there is one important difference: you can't explain to your pet what is happening and why. For that reason, pets must be anesthetized for anything other than the most cursory of examinations. In order to perform a thorough checkup, your veterinarian or trained veterinary dental technician needs to be able to visualize all your pet's teeth'"even those in the back of his or her mouth'"and be able to access the entire mouth with instruments during the cleaning procedure. For more complicated procedures, such as tooth extractions, oral surgery, and root canal, it is essential.

Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are, unfortunately, becoming popular, but are inappropriate for a number of reasons. First of all, using a sharp instrument to remove calculus in the mouth of a pet that is awake is unsafe and carries a high likelihood of damage to the oral soft tissues in the event of slippage of the instrument. Secondly, true periodontal pathology is that which is found under the gum line, and cleaning and probing for pockets under the gum line is impossible in a pet that is awake, especially between teeth that are far back in the mouth. Lastly, cleaning under the gum line and deep into periodontal pockets can be painful and uncomfortable, as one can imagine a dental cleaning would feel had they not brushed their teeth for a year. For that reason, it is imperative to provide appropriate pain control for these procedures.

Is the Veterinary Anesthesia Safe?

While there is always a slight risk when using anesthesia on a pet, or even a person for that matter, today's veterinary anesthetic agents are extremely safe. To further maximize your pet's safety, your veterinary team will recommend pre-anesthetic testing to make sure there are no hidden health problems that could compromise your pet's ability to undergo the procedure. In addition, your pet will be monitored while under the anesthesia and during recovery. The risk of disease from dental problems is far greater than any risks presented by the anesthesia. Owners are often especially concerned about anesthetizing older pets. However, many dental problems can be extremely painful as well as contribute to the development of systemic disease. With pets today living longer and longer, owners must weigh, in consultation with their veterinarian, the risks and benefits of allowing an older pet to possibly live years with a painful condition.

Why Does My Pet Need Radiographs for a Dental Exam?

Dental x-rays are becoming the standard of care for pet dentistry, just as they are in human dentistry. Without radiographs, or x-rays, it is impossible for a veterinarian to detect problems below the gum line or within the tooth itself. Radiographs are necessary before deciding on a course of therapy in order to help determine, for example, how extensive a tooth fracture is.

What Is A Feline Resorptive Lesion (FRL)?

Sometimes called neck lesions or cervical line lesions, these are painful lesions that can affect any tooth in a cat's mouth. . Cats with tooth resorption may salivate excessively, bleed from the gums, and have difficulty eating. Keep in mind that a majority of affected cats, however, do not show any outward signs of having one of these painful lesions. When suspected, radiographs are essential to determine if the lesions have entered the pulp chamber of the tooth .The treatment options for these lesions include extraction or crown amputation. An extraction would be performed if a tooth has a resorptive lesion that is affecting only the crown of the tooth, but the root is intact. A crown amputation is performed if the root(s) of the tooth (teeth) are severely affected by resorption. Either of these treatment options will relieve pain.

What Do I Do About Broken Teeth?

Broken teeth in pets, especially in dogs, are common, either as a result of chewing on something hard, or from trauma, such as being hit by a car. Broken teeth need to be treated. Just as in people, a broken tooth or one with a fracture exposes the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth (the pulp) to the outside air and to infection. This can be extremely painful for pets, and leaving a broken tooth in place untreated is not an option because it can lead to chronic infection, abscess formation, and loosening or loss of secondary teeth.

There are two treatment options: extraction or root canal therapy. Performing a root canal will save what is left of the broken tooth by cleaning out the pulp inside and filling it with an inert material so that it cannot become reinfected'"the same process that is performed in humans. If root canal therapy is not an option, the tooth can be extracted. In this case, your veterinary team will recommend medications to help reduce pain and swelling following the extraction.  Titanium silver crowns can be placed over teeth that have had root canal therapy to help prevent further fractures from occurring. This is especially popular for working dogs, such as police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and hunting dogs.

What Are Good Home Care Tips?
  • The easiest way to introduce a pet to home dental cleanings is to start when it is a puppy or kitten. It is important for youngsters to learn to allow you to examine their mouths, both for dental cleanings and to administer medications if need be. Even if your pet is older, however, it can still be trained to accept a home dental cleaning by being patient and consistent with your efforts.
  • If your pet does not like to have his or her mouth touched, start with very small steps. Start with touching one tooth at first each day, and then very gradually, over a period of days, weeks, or even months, work toward getting your pet to allow you to brush its entire mouth.
  • If your pet seems afraid of a pet toothbrush, try using a finger brush or even a piece of gauze wrapped over a finger at first.
  • Make sure you only use toothpaste made specifically for pets. Pet toothpaste tastes good to pets and do not contain fluoride, which can be harmful when swallowed in large amounts.
  • If your pet will not safely tolerate your putting your hands in its mouth, don't risk being bitten. Inform your veterinarian and he or she will schedule more frequent dental cleanings as necessary or provide you with other training advice.
  • Ask your veterinarian for recommendations regarding special dental care diets and treats that will help you and your pet fight plaque buildup in between cleanings.
  • And remember, the best homecare tip is to start early while pets are young by making home dental cleanings part of your regular daily grooming routine.

If you suspect that your pet may be experiencing dental problems, call our hospital to schedule a dental check up with our veterinarian whose practice is limited to dentistry and oral surgery to determine the condition of his/her oral health and to remedy any existing problems.

Services Offered in Dentistry

Veterinarians in Dentistry


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The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments such as wellness, spay/neuter, advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, boarding, and grooming. Services may vary by location.

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Emergency Care


TEL: 914-457-4000

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Animal Specialty Center is a fully-equipped 24/7/365 emergency hospital serving communities in and surrounding lower Westchester. If you suspect your pet may be having a medical crisis, we have a staff of top veterinarians, technicians and client care specialists prepared to handle all pet medical emergencies.

Our Emergency and Critical Care units can assist in all of the following situations requiring immediate medical attention: Auto accidents, traumatic injuries (fractures, bites, burns, lacerations, wounds), respiratory emergencies (choking, difficulty breathing), vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty urinating/defecating, shock, loss of consciousness, dizziness, staggering, tremors, seizures, paralysis, toxic reactions, poison ingestion, labor and delivery problems, blood in urine or feces, swollen, hard, painful abdomen, heatstroke.