Out of all the members of one’s family, it is not difficult to guess who has the worst dental hygiene. It is the pets. They do not brush their teeth, nor do they floss, and this goes on for years. In fact, more than 85% of dogs and cats older than four years of age suffer from some degree of dental disease. To see what would happen to your teeth without brushing and flossing, look into your cat or dog’s mouth. Or just smell their breath.
There is little difference physically between the dog or cat’s tooth and the human tooth. We all have a set of baby teeth that come in and fall out to make way for adult teeth. We all have nerves and blood vessels in our teeth surrounded by dentin, which is surrounded in turn by a hard coat of enamel. The enamel is bathed in saliva which is quickly covered by plaque (bacteria mixed with saliva). It is imperative to clean and disinfect our mouths to rid our teeth of plaque and tartar.
Periodontal disease is the medical term used to describe problems around (perio) the tooth (dontal). Periodontal disease starts when plaque forms on the teeth. Plaque is a transparent adhesive fluid that mineralizes into tartar. Tartar is solid and gritty and blocks oxygen from the tooth. This results in a favorable environment for bacteria to grow. Once these bacteria begin to grow, it is harmful to the attachment between the bone and tooth, known as the periodontal ligament. This will continue to progress until the bone around the tooth is literally eaten away. Unfortunately, it does not stop there. The bacteria will then be able to access the blood supply and seed other areas in the body leading to infection in the heart, liver, or kidney. Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) is reversible, bone loss is not!
Your pet’s dental care begins at home. Puppies and kittens will learn how to have their teeth brushed. Some diets are aimed at minimizing the plaque and tartar build up. You and your pet should be comfortable with you looking inside his or her mouth. First smell your dog or cat’s breath. If you sense a disagreeable odor, gum disease may be present. Usually the first sign of dental disease is bad breath. Other signs you may notice are red swollen gums, tartar, chips or loose teeth. If problems are noted, veterinarian treatment is warranted.
Contrary to common belief, chewing on raw hides, cow hooves, rocks, bones or other hard materials offer little benefit for your pet’s teeth, and may even break their teeth. Chewing on any type of toy or treat only prevents tartar build up on the teeth that they chew with, leaving many or most of their teeth uncared for. Just like you and I, your pet will benefit from having his or her teeth professionally scaled and polished.
At Twin Valley VHS, our trained registered veterinary technologists and veterinarian will perform a complete and thorough oral exam on your pet. This will allow us to establish to what degree your pet has periodontal disease and what is the best treatment. A pet’s dental treatment is much the same as a human’s, however, all pets need to be anesthetized to have their teeth scaled, polished or extracted.
If you have any questions regarding the above information or any concerns in general, please contact Twin Valley VHS at 745-6642.
Dr. Justin Noble DVM
Twin Valley Veterinary Health Services