Veterinary Dentistry: A Critical Component of Every Pet’s Health Care

Feb 06

Categories: Pet Care

Veterinary Dentistry: A Critical Component of Every Pet’s Health Care

You brush your teeth twice daily and visit your dentist regularly, but does your pet receive regular dental care? Many pet owners are surprised to learn that tartar accumulation and bad breath are not normal in dogs and cats, and, moreover, that they may be signs of advanced dental disease.

Dental disease is the most common medical condition of pets, with most dogs and cats affected by 3 years of age if they do not get regular preventive care. Stay on top of your pet’s dental care to avoid painful periodontitis and tooth loss.

What is pet dental disease?

Normal bacteria living in your pet’s mouth constantly secrete a sticky plaque film on her teeth that, if not brushed off in a short time, mineralizes into hard, brown tartar that accumulates on the teeth. Tartar buildup is unsightly, but the plaque and tartar below the gum line cause more serious problems for your pet. Subgingival tartar leads to periodontal disease, which is inflammation and loosening of the periodontal structures that tightly anchor each tooth into its bony socket. 

What are signs of dental disease in pets?

You may not notice the early stages of dental disease in your pet unless you regularly look inside her mouth. Signs your pet has dental disease may include:Veterinary Dentistry

  • Bad breath
  • Tartar accumulation 
  • Difficulty chewing food
  • Dropping food from her mouth
  • Blood on her toys on in her food or water dish
  • Pawing at her mouth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Swelling under her eye

How can dental disease harm my pet?

As periodontal disease progresses, affected teeth begin to deteriorate. Consequences of untreated periodontal disease can affect your pet’s entire body, and include:

  • Chronic pain — Dental pain can be excruciating, and your pet may be silently suffering from constant discomfort. 
  • Infection — Inflamed periodontal structures often become infected as oral bacteria attack. Chronic infection can develop and progress to a painful tooth-root abscess.
  • Halitosis — Bacteria lurking in accumulated tartar and infected oral tissues emit an offensive odor that can cause severe bad breath.
  • Root degeneration — Advanced periodontal disease leads to tooth-root degeneration and tooth loosening. 
  • Systemic disease — Bacteria from dental tartar and infected tissue can travel throughout your pet’s body to wreak havoc on other body systems, including her heart. 

How can I prevent dental disease in my pet?

As with humans, the most effective way to ward off dental disease in pets is regular brushing. If you have never brushed your pet’s teeth, you will be surprised by the array of brushes and flavored toothpastes available to make the experience pleasant, and perhaps fun, for your pet. Start slowly by allowing your pet to lick flavored toothpaste from your finger, and then progress to rubbing your finger on the outside of her teeth. Gradually work up to introducing a toothbrush and gently scrubbing her teeth. During your daily sessions, examine your pet’s teeth for dental disease signs. 

Pets require regular professional cleanings, as well as daily dental care. During your pet’s annual wellness visit, your veterinarian will examine her teeth to see if a more thorough evaluation and cleaning is in order. Prior to your pet’s cleaning, dental X-rays will be taken to evaluate each tooth from tip to root and its surrounding bone, diseased teeth will be identified, and a treatment plan developed. A veterinary dental cleaning is similar to your trip to the dentist—tartar will be removed above and below the gum line and your pet’s teeth will be polished. 

What can I do if my pet already has dental disease?

If your pet has not received regular preventive care, she likely has some degree of dental disease—tartar accumulation and bad breath are sure signs. Periodontal disease causes chronic pain, and your pet may be quietly suffering, so schedule an appointment with our veterinary team for a thorough evaluation to determine the steps we can take to stop disease progression. A thorough dental cleaning can reverse early stages of periodontal disease, but severely affected teeth may be irreversibly damaged and require extraction to prevent further pain. 

If you have questions about your pet’s dental health, or her last dental assessment was more than a year ago, contact us, and we can prevent or treat any suffering from periodontal disease. 

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