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According to the Australian Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have dental disease by the age of 3. Dental (or periodontal) disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in pets.
So what is Dental Disease?
This refers to the bacterial load, inflammation and infection of the teeth and gums in the mouth’s of our pets. Inflammation and infection can cause resorption of the bone, which leading to pain and discomfort in the mouth, tooth loosening and tooth loss. In advanced cases, affected teeth completely lose their attachment to the jaw bone.
This is one of the most common veterinary problems in dogs and cats, and it affects all breeds and both genders. Unfortunately, dental disease tends to worsen with age.
What Causes Dental Disease?
Imagine what your mouth would feel like if you never brushed your teeth or went to the dentist. For many dogs and cats, this is a painful reality.
Dental disease is largely bacterial in origin. Bacteria attaches to the teeth forming a hard, rough substance called tartar (or calculus) which allows more plaque to accumulate.
Initially, plaque is soft so brushing or chewing hard food can dislodge it. If left to spread, plaque can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, causing them to become red and swollen and to bleed easily. As plaque and calculus develop below the gum line, professional cleaning will be needed to help manage it. If the plaque and tartar build-up continues unchecked, infection can form around the root of the tooth.
In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues surrounding the tooth are destroyed, the bony socket holding the tooth in erodes, and the tooth becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your four-legged friend, but these problems can be averted before they start with proper dental care.
Common signs of dental disease include:
- Yellow or brown buildup (tartar) on the teeth
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Excessive drooling
- Changes in eating or chewing habits
- Pawing at the face
- Loose teeth
Even if your dog or cat doesn’t have these symptoms, we recommend that you have a veterinarian evaluate your pet’s dental health at least once a year. Bacteria and food debris accumulate around the teeth and, if left unchecked, will lead to deterioration of the soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth. This decay can result in irreversible periodontal disease, tooth loss, and possibly expensive oral surgery.
How is the rest of the body affected?
Bad breath is the most common effect noted, however, this is often only the tip of the iceberg. The gums become irritated, leading to bleeding and pain, and your pet may lose its appetite. The roots may become so severely affected that some teeth become loose and fall out.
However, infected gums and teeth aren’t just a problem in the mouth — the heart, kidneys, liver & intestinal tract can also be infected. The tartar and any infected areas of the mouth contain a multitude of bacteria which gains access to the blood stream. Studies have shown that dogs with severe dental disease have more microscopic damage in their kidneys, heart muscle and liver than do dogs with less severe periodontal disease. Additionally, for our elderly pets, they are more sensitive to their heart, kidneys and liver being affected by the bacteria that cause dental disease.
Most people would agree that dental pain can be very severe. But despite the severity of dental pain, dogs and cats go about life in an apparently normal manner. Rarely will an owner notice tooth pain in an animal. Pain signs and symptoms are vague at best and easily overlooked by even the most conscientious and attentive owner. We know that dogs and cats, like humans, have almost identical nervous systems which means they feel that same pain that we do. After a dental procedure, it’s not surprising to hear that a dog or cat is “much more active”…”acts years younger”…”eats much better”…”wants to play, etc.”
With the advances in modern veterinary medicine, animals are living longer, happier, healthier lives, and we would like to ensure that your pet’s mouth stays healthy as well as the rest of their body. With regular dental care, you can prevent some of these more serious side effects
Preventing Periodontal Disease
Fortunately, periodontal disease is almost entirely preventable by regular home dental care, which should start after your puppy or kittens permanent teeth have erupted. A number of products are available for oral hygiene, including brushes, pastes and chewing products that help to physically reduce plaque build-up.
Special dental diets are also commercially available. Pets prone to periodontal disease should be fed a palatable, high quality dry kibble as the mainstay of their diet.
Schedule your pet’s dental exam today! We can also help show you how to brush your pet’s teeth and recommend foods and treats that will help combat plaque and tartar buildup.