Pet dental care is an extremely important part of your pets health.
Dental disease is a very common problem in dogs and cats and if left untreated can be much more serious than just bad breath.
Just like humans, dogs and cats have two sets of teeth during their lifetime, with the
first teeth erupting known as deciduous teeth. The full set of adult teeth that replace these first, 'baby' teeth, will not be fully erupted until around 6 months of age. It is important to examine the deciduous teeth to determine if the adult teeth will be correctly placed, so that further problems can be avoided in adult life.
Maintaining healthy adult teeth and gums is the key factor in the prevention of dental disease.
When proper oral care is not undertaken, a thin film of bacteria, known as plaque, builds up on the surface of the teeth. Over time the plaque becomes mineralised, producing calculus or tartar, which has a rough surface and attracts more bacteria. This accumulation of tartar irritates the gums, causing them to become red and inflamed, resulting in a condition known as gingivitis, which can be very painful for your pet. If gingivitis is left to progress, it increases the risk of a pocket formation between the gum and the tooth. Food debris becomes trapped in this pocket, leading to breakdown of the tooth attachments as well as the bony socket, which is known as periodontal disease. As the disease process continues, the gums will recede and an infection will occur, leading to loose teeth and a very painful mouth.
How does a pet owner know if dental care is needed?
Examination of the teeth is key, and you need to know what to look for. Not all of our pets understand why this examination needs to be done, especially if they have not been accustomed to it, and so it is important for pets to be introduced to regular oral checks from a very early age.
Signs of dental disease include:
Bad breath (halitosis)
Red gums (gingivitis)
Bleeding from around the teeth
Loose, broken or discoloured teeth
A change in chewing or eating habits
Pawing at the mouth is a sign of pain and perhaps wobbly teeth
Salivating excessively due to pain or discomfort
Reluctance to eat. Although this occurs rarely, and many dogs and cats will continue to eat even with horrible dental disease.
In severe cases, bacteria can spread into the bloodstream and to the major organs such as the heart and kidneys.
Dental disease is easy to ignore because it is a problem that comes on gradually,
and can therefore be difficult to notice. Our pets learn to tolerate dental disease, but that doesn’t mean it does not cause discomfort, and in some cases much pain and serious infection. It is often only when the disease is treated, that our pets appear happier and livelier, that we realise how much the dental disease was affecting them.