According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, by 3 years of age, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have oral disease. This represents the most frequently diagnosed health problem in pets. Some signs commonly associated with oral disease include yellow or brown tarter buildup, red inflamed gums, bad breath, and a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face, and/or generalized depression.
Food debris, bacteria and saliva combine to form plaque around teeth at the gum line. The plaque combines with calcium salts in the mouth to form tarter. Tarter buildup begins to migrate below the gum line and results in separation of the gum from the tooth. At this stage, professional cleaning is needed, as brushing alone will not remove the tarter that is below the gum line. The animal will have to be anesthetized to assess the degree of separation below the gum line and to remove the tarter both below and above the gum line. At this time we will also radiograph the teeth to make sure there is no other underlying, hidden dental problems. If left unchecked, more bacteria and food debris will accumulate and lead to deterioration of the soft tissue and bone surrounding the tooth. This results in irreversible periodontal disease that in turn can lead to dental pain and the loss of a tooth.
Your pet’s dental disease may be a sign of other disease processes occurring elsewhere in your pet’s body. A thorough physical exam combined with appropriate laboratory work can determine if this is the case.
There are other reasons you should pay close attention to your pet’s dental health. Dental disease can affect other significant organs in the body. Bacteria in the mouth can circulate through the blood stream and potentially cause serious kidney infections, liver disease, lung disease, and heart valve disease.
We should evaluate your pet’s dental health at least once a year for middle-aged pets and twice yearly for the seniors. We can recommend and demonstrate preventative measures you can begin at home.
If you are concerned about your pet’s dental health, please book an appointment for an examination and consultation.