Regularly examine your pet for signs of dental disease- bad breath, tartar, red, swollen, or painful gums, decreased appetite, difficulty eating, loose or missing teeth. If your pet has any of these signs it has periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease can start as early as 2 years of age. More than 85 percent of dogs and cats over four years of age have some form of periodontal disease, a progressive, painful inflammation and destruction of the normal tooth structure, leading to tooth loss. If periodontal disease is left unchecked, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and travel to major organs, starting infections there. Damage to these organs caused by infection can shorten the lives of dogs and cats.
Factors that affect the incidence of periodontal disease include:
- Breed- smaller dogs tend to have more dental disease than larger dogs. Cats can have resorptive enamel lesions exposing the root of the tooth.
- Extra or malpositioned teeth- retained baby teeth can force the permanent teeth into abnormal positions and cause a build up of tartar. Brachycephalic breeds ie. Pugs have malpositioned teeth causing crowding and a tartar trap. These teeth should be extracted to avoid problems later.
- Diet- soft food can predispose to an increase in accumulation of plaque.
Professional cleaning is the best way to remove tartar on the teeth, and hopefully reverse the effects on the gums. Under anesthesia, the tartar is removed, teeth are polished, and fluoride applied and the teeth probed for pockets. A full mouth x-ray is performed to check for any unseen abnormalities under the gumline. Problem teeth are x-rayed to develop a treatment plan. A root canal or periodontal surgery may be performed to save a tooth. Any teeth that can not be saved are extracted.
To help prevent dental tartar, start brushing your pet's teeth when your pet it is young or after a teeth cleaning. We recommend daily brushing. Brushing will dramatically increase the interval between teeth cleaning appointments. Tips to get your pet to accept tooth brushing:
Most importantly, brush daily, have annual dental exams, and regularly have teeth cleaned professionally.