Dental disease, also called periodontal disease, is the most commonly diagnosed condition in pets today. In fact, the American Veterinary Dental College estimates that by the time most pets are 3 years of age, over 80% of them have some form of dental disease.
Aside from bad breath, it’s often difficult for pet owners to know what’s going on inside their pet’s mouths. After all, who wants to look in there, with all those sharp teeth? And pets are masters at hiding signs of discomfort and pain, even from their closest people – making it even harder to tell if something is wrong.
But make no mistake, dental disease is painful for your pet. In addition to red and bleeding gums, difficulty eating, and loose or broken teeth, dental disease can cause damage to the heart, liver, or kidneys when bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream.
Luckily, dental disease in pets is preventable. Long Animal Hospital and Emergency Center tackles this important topic, here.
What is Pet Dental Disease?
Dental disease begins when bacteria in the mouth combine with food particles to form plaque, which sticks to the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva cause the plaque to harden into tartar.
When the bacteria migrate under the gumline, they cause inflammation, or gingivitis. If left untreated, the bacteria then destroy the underlying tooth structures including the supporting tissue and even the bone below.
Signs of Dental Disease in Pets
Although bad breath may be the first sign of dental disease that is noticed, you should also be on the lookout for:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Red or bleeding gums
- Swelling of the face or neck
- Discolored teeth
- Chewing reluctantly or on one side of the mouth
- Loss of interest in toys or hard kibble
Treatment and Prevention
Because the signs of dental disease are sometimes hard to detect, we recommend regular preventive exams to evaluate your pet’s teeth and oral health, even if there doesn’t seem to be a problem. When it comes to dental disease, prevention is definitely the best medicine. Catching small problems before they become advanced disease saves your pet pain and discomfort, as well as a lengthy dental treatment. It also saves you money in the long run.
The first step in prevention is an oral exam. During this exam, your veterinarian will examine your pet’s mouth, checking for obviously loose teeth, plaque, and tartar. Your account of your pet’s behavior at home will also be an important indicator as to the presence of dental disease.
A professional dental cleaning is recommended for most pets on an annual basis. This includes:
- A thorough examination of each tooth
- Digital dental radiographs to assess the health of the teeth below the gumline
- Probing any problem areas to determine if infection is present
- Charting the teeth and gums to record any problems to watch
- Ultrasonic cleaning of the teeth to remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline.
- Polishing rough tooth surfaces to prevent plaque buildup in the future
- Treatment or extraction of diseased teeth
A home care plan for dental health is also in order. This starts with daily toothbrushing. Our skilled technicians can give you a demo in our office. And even though younger animals are easier to teach, older pets can also learn to tolerate this attention to their teeth and mouth.
With your help, your pet can enjoy the benefits of good dental health and the better overall health that it creates. As always, your team at Long Animal Emergency and Referral Center is here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment.