Dental disease in pets is more than bad breath, although this may be the first sign you notice. When oral bacteria feed off food particles in the mouth, a gummy-like film forms on the tooth surface, known as plaque. This substance regularly forms on people’s teeth, too, but regular tooth brushing helps us remove most of the plaque. Without daily brushing, plaque eventually builds up and calcifies, forming a hard material called tartar that, when left untreated, builds up beneath the gum line, causing inflammation, infection, or bone loss. This condition, known as periodontal disease, is extremely common in pets. Read on for five important facts regarding dental disease in pets and how you can prevent disease in your own furry friend.
Fact #1: Approximately two-thirds of pets over age 3 have dental disease
Despite how frequently this condition occurs, many pet owners have no idea what’s going on in their pet’s mouth. Dogs and cats with severe periodontal disease often continue to eat, drink, and go about their day without any sign that anything is wrong. An examination by our veterinarian may unveil lurking tartar, gingivitis, or loose teeth, hence the importance of regular dental check-ups.
Fact #2: Tooth extraction is often necessary in dental disease
Your veterinarian does not want to remove your pet’s teeth, but sometimes it is necessary for your pet’s overall health and comfort. Once periodontal disease becomes moderate to severe, the structures surrounding the teeth become compromised. Gum tissue recedes and becomes inflamed, infection can take over, and underlying bone loss can occur, All which can cause pain, loose teeth, and systemic infection if oral bacteria spread into the bloodstream.
Fact #3: Toothbrushing alone cannot remove dental tartar
While it may not hurt, getting your pet’s teeth brushed occasionally at the groomer probably isn’t helping prevent dental disease. In fact, while daily toothbrushing can effectively remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup, it cannot remove hard, mineralized tartar already present on the tooth surface. This requires a dental hand scaler or ultrasonic scaler that only a veterinary professional can use.
Fact #4: Dental disease is entirely preventable
Avoiding periodontal disease in pets starts with a dental exam by our veterinary team and adherence to an at-home oral-care routine. This is best started at a young age when pets are formative and open to new experiences, although it is never too late to start.
Daily toothbrushing is the best way to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Start by purchasing a pet toothbrush or finger brush and a veterinary-approved toothpaste. Apply a small dab of toothpaste onto your pet’s tongue to get her used to the taste and texture. Gradually move up to brushing one tooth, one side of the mouth, and eventually, all teeth from all angles. In the beginning, aim for three brushing sessions per week, working up to daily sessions. Other products, including antiseptic rinses, wipes, chews, and water additives are also available. Talk to our veterinary team about recommendations for your pet.
Fact #5: Most pets benefit from routine anesthetic dental cleanings
Human dentists recommend that we come in regularly for teeth cleanings, and the same should go for our pets. While daily brushing is certainly beneficial, some plaque and tartar buildup will likely still occur.
The only safe, effective way to remove stubborn tartar under the gum line is to anesthetize your pet. Before doing so, our veterinarian will perform lab work and a full physical exam to ensure your pet is healthy. Then, unless your pet is deemed unfit for anesthesia, routine cleanings should be performed on a regular basis to prevent further disease.
Dental disease in pets should not be a common condition. With our veterinary team’s help, and yours, your pet can be on the road to a healthy mouth. Contact us to set up a dental consultation.