Dental disease is the most common problem our pets face, more specifically, the accumulation of plaque or dental tartar. In the early stages of accumulation, the material is soft (plaque), but it later hardens and adheres to the teeth (tartar). Dental calculus (tartar) is composed of various mineral salts, organic material, bacteria, and food particles. Continual accumulation causes inflammation of the gums, eventual recession of the gums, and loose teeth. The breath becomes very odorous and the mouth becomes a dangerous source of infection. Untreated tooth and gum disease may allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and valves of the heart.
All pet owners should know that a healthy mouth has gums that are pink in color and adhere tightly to teeth that are white and smooth. It’s important to routinely examine your pet’s mouth at home to stay on track with their oral health. Your pet may need a dental cleaning if you have noticed any of the following conditions:
- You’ve examined your pet's mouth and have noticed that the teeth are discolored.
- Your pet's mouth is sensitive and he/she will not allow you to look at the teeth.
- Your pet is having difficulty eating.
- Your pet’s bad breath is noticeable.
- You have noticed blood coming from your pet’s mouth or noticed it on their chew toys, bedding, etc.
Treatment for dental disease includes scaling and polishing the teeth. These are both done under general anesthesia. Scaling will remove calculus at and below the gum line, while polishing will smooth the surfaces of the teeth to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Full-mouth radiographs will be performed to evaluate the health of the teeth roots as well.
Maintaining the health of the teeth and gums after a dental procedure includes daily care from you, the owner. This may entail brushing, using an oral rinse, or giving your pet oral chews. Let us help you design an at-home dental care program that accommodates your lifestyle and abilities.
Establishing a routine of when you have your pet's teeth cleaned is a great way to ensure their dental health. February is a great month to do so, as many veterinary practices (including ours) give a discount on dental cleaning. However, if your pet needs dental care now, don't wait! Waiting, even just a few months, can put your pet at risk for underlying disease.