Good dental hygiene is essential for good health. Unfortunately, pet dental health is often forgotten: over 65% of cats and dogs over 3 years old have dental disease, making dental disease one of the most common afflictions for pets.
Signs and Symptoms
Obvious signs and symptoms of dental disease are not always present as infection can exist below the gumline. Some visible signs that pets may exhibit are: halitosis (bad breath), difficulty eating (especially hard food), decreased interest in food, visible plaque and tartar on the teeth, red or bleeding gums, sores in the mouth, and pawing at the mouth.
Progression of Dental Disease
Plaque, a soft biofilm, forms on the teeth when bacteria in the mouth attach themselves to the surface of the teeth. Plaque can be removed by brushing with a soft toothbrush. If the plaque is not removed, it will harden into tartar. Usually tartar must be removed by professional dental scaling (cleaning) and polishing. Brushing is not sufficient to remove tartar.
Plaque and tartar will form on the exposed surface of the teeth, as well as under the gumline. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar, and is a bacterial infection. If gingivitis is treated early with veterinary dental cleaning and polishing, the gingivitis is reversible with the removal of the plaque and tartar. However, if gingivitis is left untreated, the plaque and tartar will continue to accumulate and the gums will become more and more infected. Periodontal disease occurs when the bacterial infection spreads from the gums to the ligaments, bones, and teeth. As these tissues are destroyed by the bacteria, teeth become loose and eventually fall out. The spread of bacteria can also cause abscesses, or pockets of pus, in the mouth. Periodontal disease cannot be reversed as the damage to the teeth, bone, and ligaments cannot be repaired.
In addition to periodontal disease, gingivitis can also cause infections and disease in the rest of the body. Bacteria enter the bloodstream through the inflamed gums. The bacteria travel through the blood from the mouth to the rest of the body, infecting other tissue and organs. Kidney disease, liver disease, and heart disease are frequently caused by dental disease when the bacteria begins to destroy these organs.
4 Steps to Prevent Dental Disease
- Regular examinations by your veterinarian, & dental cleaning and polishing as required.
- Brush your cat or dog’s teeth regularly to remove plaque and prevent the formation of tartar.
- Use an oral cleaning solution to decrease the bacteria in the mouth. These can be put directly in the mouth or added to drinking water.
- Include a dental food as part of your pet’s diet. Dental foods help prevent the formation of plaque and tartar.
Caring for your pet’s teeth will prevent dental disease and other health problems, saving you money in the long run.
- Dental disease in cats and dogs.
- Instructions and videos on how to brush your cat’s and dog’s teeth.
- Dr. Ernie at the Pet Health Network answers his top 10 dog dental questions and top 10 cat dental questions.
- Hill’s has a dental health website in honour of dental health month. They have some contest on their site as well as information.
Copyright 2013 Lynne Semple and Rowan for Acres Animal Hospital