Toothbrushing, flossing, and dental checkups are normal parts of our lives. Did you know you should pay similar attention to your pet’s dental health? It is easy to believe that as long as your pet is eating and not knocking you over with her breath, her teeth are fine, but this may not be the case. Periodontal disease can be subtle at first, but have painful and irreversible consequences if left unchecked.
Progression of periodontal disease in pets
After your pet eats, food particles mix with bacteria in the mouth and adhere to the tooth surfaces as soft plaque, which can be easily removed with a toothbrush or other dental product. However, the soft plaque can quickly form into calculus, or tartar, an extremely hard substance that is difficult to remove. Gingivitis (i.e., inflammation of the gums) occurs when plaque and calculus remain on the tooth. Appropriate dental care at this point can eliminate the gingivitis with minimal consequences, but if the plaque remains, bacteria may invade the space between the gums and teeth, leading to periodontal disease, which is inflammation of the ligaments and bone supporting the teeth that can cause irreversible damage.
Effects of periodontal disease on pets’ health
Periodontal disease can have serious consequences for your pet, including:
- Tooth loss — Bone and ligament destruction can loosen teeth, and they may fall out, but likely will need extraction.
- Jaw fractures — Significant bone loss can weaken the jaw, sometimes so much that it breaks.
- Tooth-root abscess — A painful abscess can form when the tooth root becomes infected. Infection travels along the tooth root and can rupture, which is extremely painful
- Oral-nasal fistulas — These fistulas are formed when the bone that separates the mouth and sinuses is destroyed.
- Systemic effects — Kidney, liver, or heart damage can result when oral bacteria enter the pet’s bloodstream.
- Pain — Loose or infected teeth cause significant dental pain in pets, manifesting as reluctance to eat, pawing at the mouth, or a change in behavior. Pets are experts at hiding pain, and problems may be advanced before they show any signs.
Prevention should start when your pet is young
Acclimate your dog to having her teeth brushed, or institute the regular use of effective dental-care products such as toys, treats, or oral wipes or rinses, as a puppy. This will help ensure she—and you—sticks to a daily dental routine throughout her life, which will help prevent plaque buildup, and slow the progression of periodontal disease and pain. Cats also need a regular tooth-cleaning routine. If you need help, contact our veterinary team, and we will gladly recommend the best products for your pet, and instruct you on their proper use.
Professional dentistry is vital for your pet
As people need regular cleanings by a dentist as well as brushing and flossing at home, your pet also needs to visit our clinic for a complete oral health assessment and treatment (COHAT), in addition to her at-home routine. Professional dental cleanings are always performed under anesthesia, because pets will not stay still enough to allow a thorough examination and cleaning, and because this eliminates any anxiety and pain. While your pet is anesthetized, our veterinary team will visually assess your pet’s mouth, and take X-rays to determine the degree of plaque, tooth problems, and periodontal disease affecting your pet. We will remove existing plaque and calculus, extract any loose, dead, or compromised teeth, polish her teeth, and monitor her recovery from anesthesia.
Proper aftercare keeps your pet’s teeth healthy longer
Following your pet’s COHAT, you must immediately resume her at-home dental routine, because plaque will accumulate on her freshly cleaned teeth in only a few days, and the same progression to disease will begin again. We will formulate an oral-health plan tailored to your pet, but only you can implement the plan. Knowing that you are helping prevent your furry friend’s pain and dental disease should be good motivation.
Are you ready to care for your pet’s pearly whites, prevent periodontal disease, and help ensure her overall good health? Give us a call.