If you have a pet, chances are they give you many hours of laughter, joy, and fun. Whatever your pet’s personality, giving them the best care is top priority. But when was the last time you thought about your dog or cat’s dental health? What starts out as a little bad breath can quickly progress to full blown periodontal disease, if left untreated.

Periodontal disease is the progressive inflammation of the supporting structures of the teeth. It causes bad breath, gingivitis, and tooth loss. Even worse, bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and travel to your pet’s internal organs, causing liver, heart, and kidney problems.

Most of us would rather not look inside our pet’s mouths to see what’s really going on in there. So let The Whole Pet Vet Hospital and Wellness Center show you the hidden dangers of pet dental disease, and how we treat and prevent it.

Dangers of Dental Disease in Pets

Periodontal disease is the most common condition diagnosed in pets today, with 85% of them being affected by age 3.

It begins when bacteria in the mouth combine with food particles to cause plaque, which sticks to the teeth. The plaque hardens into tartar within a few weeks. The bacteria then work their way under the gumline, causing gingivitis, swelling, and redness. If left untreated, the bacteria then erode the supporting structures of the teeth (periodontitis), causing painful tooth loss and infection.

The bacteria that cause dental disease also enter your pet’s blood stream. This can in turn cause heart, kidney or liver disease, and make diabetes regulation more challenging. Sadly, there is some evidence that dental disease can shorten the lifespan of your pet as well.

Signs of Pet Dental Disease

Pet owners can observe some of the signs of periodontal disease, which may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing (often manifests as messy eating)
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tartar on the teeth, discolored teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Facial swelling

Your veterinarian can observe signs of periodontal disease as well. During your pet’s preventive care exam, a dental exam will be performed. During this exam, we can observe gingivitis, but because most of dental disease occurs below the gum line, anesthesia is required for a thorough and complete evaluation of your pet’s dental health.

Periodontal Treatment

Treatment depends on the severity of the disease. If mild plaque and tartar are seen, a professional cleaning both above and below the gum line followed by dental polishing are all that’s needed to reverse the condition.

However, if there has been loss of supporting structures of the teeth, the process can’t be reversed as long as the tooth remains. Veterinarians may need to perform one of more of the following procedures in order to treat the problem.

  • Application of antibiotics beneath the gum
  • Root planing
  • Root canal
  • Crown restoration
  • Extraction
  • Dental Radiographs (X-rays) to evaluate the tooth roots and surrounding bone for signs of periodontal disease

Preventing Periodontal Disease

Luckily, this is one disease that is almost entirely preventable.

As a part of your pet’s regular wellness program, we’ll look closely at her teeth, gums, and mouth and provide recommendations to you for further care.

Professional cleanings are recommended on an annual basis for most pets. This allows us to thoroughly examine every tooth and ensures that we can treat small problems before they become advanced disease.

Daily tooth brushing at home is the absolute best way to keep plaque and tartar at bay in between cleanings. With a pet sized toothbrush and pet toothpaste in your arsenal, brushing your pet’s teeth isn’t as hard as you think. Our skilled technicians can show you how.

Mouth rinses, chews, and special diets may also be recommended to help keep your pet’s mouth and teeth their healthiest. These help with the removal of plaque through the abrasive act of chewing as well as with enzymes that prevent plaque from accumulating on the teeth.

There are many reasons to pay attention to the dangers of dental disease. Most importantly, preventing dental disease can give your pet a healthier, more comfortable, and longer life. If you have any questions about pet dental health, please contact us. As always, our team is here to help!