About 70% of dogs and cats have periodontal disease, which is inflammation and infection of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This disease mostly goes unnoticed until you observe a bad smell coming from your pet’s mouth.
After a pet eats a film builds on the tooth. Over time bacteria colonize and tartar forms which mineralizes onto the tooth. Once contacting the gums, bacteria penetrates and the immune system responds. Inflammation occurs and leads to bone loss and gum recession. The infection can then spread to other organs and contribute to distant disease. Not only does it locally cause pain and infection but overall health is affected.
What can you do about it? Start off by brushing your pet’s teeth daily with dog or cat friendly toothpaste. Human toothpaste will cause stomach problems. Begin slowly and build up overtime. Most pets at first will not accept brushing but with positive reinforcement you can teach them to be receptive. Water additives and oral sprays are not that effective and cannot replace the mechanical action of brushing.
People often give chew toys or dental chews to help clean the teeth. This can help a little but a lot of hard chew toys actually chip or fracture a tooth. If you cannot indent your fingernail into the chew toy then it is too hard and may do damage.
Along with daily care it is important to have a professional cleaning performed. The only effective way to do this is under anesthesia. This way the tooth can be thoroughly cleaned under the gumline and teeth accessed in the back of the mouth. Most importantly dental xrays are performed which allows us to see under the gumline and assess the root structures. A lot of disease can be detected and addressed. This is why the mouth is a hidden world, a lot of pathology is noted under the gumline that people are never aware of.
Nonanesthetic dental cleanings are only cosmetic procedures and they cannot address the disease that is present. They clean the crown of the tooth but cannot access the inner surface of the teeth or back molars well enough to prevent further periodontal disease progression. Nor can dental xrays be performed in an awake animal. Combating disease is the whole point of a dental procedure.
It is the nature of dogs and cats to hide signs of pain. But we know that a fractured tooth of inflamed gums can be chronically painful.
Twice yearly checkups are important to assess your pet’s oral health status
By: Aileen Lugo
Pet Doctor At Home
Written by the FDA