Over 80% of dogs and 70% of cats older than three years have some degree of dental disease.
Signs that your pet has dental disease include:
- bad breath
- difficulty eating
- loose teeth/tooth loss
- pawing/rubbing at the mouth
- inflamed or bleeding gums
- tartar on teeth
- dribbling of saliva
- teeth chattering
Your pet may display one or more of these signs.
The most common form of dental disease is periodontal disease. This is inflammation and infection due to an accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth. Plaque is formed by bacteria multiplying on the tooth surface. If allowed to remain on the tooth surface the plaque thickens and becomes mineralised forming tartar. Accumulation of tartar leads to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and if left unchecked progresses to periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease leads to formation of pockets around the tooth and gum recession. It is painful and can result in tooth loss. Infection around the teeth can also enter the blood stream and spread to other organs e.g. The heart and liver.
The best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your pets’ teeth daily. It is important to use a dog/cat toothpaste that is safe to be swallowed (human toothpaste contains fluoride and should not be used in pets). There are also special chews and treats which can help reduce plaque and tartar and some pet foods are specially formulated to assist in plaque removal. There are also additives available for food or water which can help reduce the build up of plaque.
Once tartar has formed a scale and polish under general anaesthetic by a veterinary surgeon may be necessary to remove it. A dental hygiene plan using one or more of the products described above should be instituted after a scale and polish to help prevent recurrence of the problem.