According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, by 3 years of age, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have oral disease. This represents the most frequently diagnosed health problem in pets. Some signs commonly associated with oral disease include yellow or brown tartar buildup, red inflamed gums, bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face and/or generalized depression. The pet owner however may not notice any symptoms at all although the gum inflammation may be extensive!
Food debris, bacteria and saliva combine to form plaque around teeth at the gumline. The plaque combines with calcium salts in the mouth to form tartar. Tartar buildup begins to migrate below the gumline and results in separation of the gum from the tooth. At this stage, professional cleaning is needed as brushing alone will not remove the tartar that is below the gumline. The animal will have to be anesthetized to assess the degree of separation below the gumline and to remove the tartar both below and above the gumline. Dental radiography can be performed to visualize the teeth, roots and structures below the gumline. A dental prophylaxis involves several steps: removal of tartar with ultrasonography, manual scraping and curettage, polishing of surfaces, flushing, disinfection and fluoride application.
If left unchecked, more bacteria and food debris will accumulate and lead to deterioration of the soft tissue and bone surrounding the tooth. This results in irreversible periodontal disease that in turn can lead to the loss of a tooth.
Your pet’s dental disease may be a sign of other disease processes occurring elsewhere in your pet’s body. A thorough physical exam combined with appropriate laboratory work can determine if this is the case.
There are other reasons you should pay close attention to your pet’s dental health. Dental disease can affect other significant organs in the body. Bacteria in the mouth can circulate through the blood stream and potentially cause serious kidney infections, liver disease, lung disease and heart valve disease.
A veterinarian should evaluate your pet’s dental health at least once a year. We can recommend and demonstrate preventative measures you can begin at home. Our wellness programs emphasize and explain how you can avoid costly dental procedures with your pet in the future.
If you are concerned about your pet’s dental health, please book an appointment for a veterinary exam and consultation.