By the time your pet is three years old, he or she will likely have some form of periodontal disease – the most common clinical condition affecting dogs and cats despite it being one of the most preventable. Imagine what might happen if you stopped brushing your teeth for days, months or even years. Not only would your breath get pretty stinky, your gums would become red and swollen, and you’d be living in constant pain. Now imagine how your pet must feel, going for months without dental care and not being able to tell you it hurts.
The cause of periodontal disease is the same for pets as it is for people. When food accumulates on the teeth from not brushing over time, bacteria begin to collect around the gum line and form a sticky substance called plaque. If left untreated, plaque becomes calcified by minerals in the saliva, forming a hard, rough substance called tartar that’s difficult to remove without special dental tools.
The Mouth-Body Connection
After time, tartar buildup eventually causes the gums to recede from the teeth, creating small pockets below the gum line where even more bacteria collect. In these stages of periodontal disease, the soft tissue and bone around the tooth erode, and the tooth becomes loose. Worse yet, the same oral bacteria associated with periodontal disease can invade your pet’s bloodstream, causing serious damage to the heart, liver and kidneys.
Signs of Trouble
There are four stages of periodontal disease, ranging from mild swelling and reddened gums to chronic pain, bone loss and missing teeth. Watch for signs your pet might be experiencing dental problems, including:
- Bad breath
- Discolored teeth or plaque buildup
- Abnormal drooling or dropping food when eating
- Pawing at the face or mouth, which could indicate pain
- Swollen or bleeding gums
Brushing Up at the Veterinarian
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and the perfect time to brush up on your pet’s oral health. Regular dental exams and cleanings from your veterinarian are essential for guarding against gingivitis and periodontal disease, as are the specialized tools and technologies in our clinic to provide the highest quality of care. During your pet’s checkup, we’ll carefully assess his or her mouth, teeth and gums. Should we detect any issues such as receding gums or plaque buildup, we’ll recommend only the procedures we feel are medically necessary for your pet to live the healthiest life.
Preventing Periodontal Disease at Home
While there is no substitute for professional dental exams and cleanings, good oral hygiene begins at home.
The single most effective way to control plaque is with regular brushing. As long as the surface of your pet’s teeth are kept clean, the gum tissue will remain healthy. Brush your pet’s teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste formulated specifically for animals. With patience and persistence, most cats and dogs will adapt to daily brushing.
During your pet’s checkup, we’ll carefully assess his or her mouth, teeth and gums.
Look into products that have been awarded the VOHC Seal, which indicate they have been clinically shown to control plaque and tartar formation. For a listing of products with the VOHC Seal of Acceptance, including treats, chews, oral gels and water additives, visit www.VOHC.org.
Consider a dental diet for your dog or cat, which can reduce plaque and tartar buildup by cleaning the teeth as your pet chews. We’ll be happy to discuss which diets are best for your pet. Pets need healthy teeth and gums too, and they depend on us to take good care of them. Together as a team, we’ll help you help your pets enjoy a lifetime of optimal health.