An Ounce of Prevention: The Basics of Pet Dental Care
Most of us aren’t exactly excited about looking into our pet’s mouths, but when it comes to pet dental care, the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is absolutely true. Studies show that by age three, 4 out of 5 dogs have some form of periodontal disease. Other studies report that 50 to 90 percent of cats over four years of age have some form of dental disease. The veterinarians and knowledgeable staff at Harris Parkway Animal Hospital are here to give you the basics of this common but preventable problem.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the mouth form plaque. Left unchecked, plaque can accumulate along the gum line and cause inflammation called gingivitis. Plaque hardens into tartar along the gum line, but the real problems begin when the bacteria in plaque travel below the gum line. Inflammation and infection affect the internal structures of the tooth, root, and even the bone underneath.
In its more severe stages, periodontal disease can cause tooth fractures or tooth loss. Unfortunately, if left untreated, bacteria can also find its way into the bloodstream and can affect the heart, liver, and kidneys.
What are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?
Like people, different pets have different signs of disease. However, earlier and more common signs of periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath
- Red or bleeding gums
- Difficulty chewing (which may look like messy eating)
- Pawing at the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Swollen or recessed gums
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
Luckily, periodontal disease is preventable, and the very best way is by brushing your pet’s teeth daily. For those who are less than excited about this prospect, we’re here to help you along. We can show you how to brush your pet’s teeth; it can be with a regular toothbrush, finger brush, or it can be as easy as using a finger wrapped with gauze. Of course, starting early with your puppy or kitten is ideal. There are also dental chews, diets, washes, and treats that can also be helpful – but there really is no substitute for daily brushing!
The Next Level
What if you can’t (or know you won’t) brush your pet’s teeth? This is when a preventive oral exam and cleaning in our office really shines. During a professional dental cleaning, your pet’s entire mouth can be effectively evaluated. Their teeth and gums will be assessed and x-rays taken of any teeth or structures that look to be problematic. It’s critical to see under the gum line in order to detect issues we can’t see with the naked eye. Teeth will be cleaned above and below the gum line, where periodontal disease does it’s dirty work. Your pet’s teeth will also be given a polish to prevent future plaque buildup.
Many clients are worried about anesthetic risk. It’s the single most common reason that pet owners put off preventive dental cleanings. However, advancements in anesthesiology have made this procedure safer than ever. It’s true, there is a risk with anesthesia, but if you’re concerned, please reach out to us. We can show you how anesthesia can be safe for your beloved friend.
An Ounce of Prevention
We hope you see how important prevention is to pet dental care. Schedule an appointment for you pet. For more information or if you have questions, please give us a call. We’re always happy to discuss your pet’s health and happiness.