Dental Health Awareness
Written by: Misa Nash Edited by: Alex Adaway
Dental health is a topic we often begin thinking about as our pets start aging, but 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have signs of periodontal disease by the age of three years old. A pet is not considered a senior until age senior. Dental health is important from the moment you can see your pet’s pearly whites. With the help of you and your veterinary staff, dental health care can become an easy part of your everyday routine.
So, what IS periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. In its early stage, gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red due to inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to the presence of harmful bacteria. It can lead to tooth loss and is a risk factor for heart and lung diseases.
During every wellness exam, your veterinarian will check your pet’s mouth. The vet will pull back the cat’s or dog’s lips to scan the general health of the mouth, but you may already have noticed an indication of oral problems—bad breath! Your pet’s breath tells us something, so do tooth and gum discoloration, pus, and loose teeth—they all may indicate a problem.
What are the signs of periodontal disease?
• Bad breath
• Broken or loose teeth
• Teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
•Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from mouth
• Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
• Pain in or around mouth
• Bleeding from mouth
• Swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth
Sometimes the problem can be fixed by starting a routine of teeth brushing. It is very important to use canine or feline toothpaste and not one designed for human use, as the fluoride can be harmful if swallowed. If you are starting a brushing routine, use the following tips to introduce this new routine slowly:
1. Begin by introducing them to the toothpaste; allow them to lick some off of your finger.
2. A few days later, try putting the toothpaste on your finger and rubbing it on their gums.
3. After they have become accustomed to the toothpaste, allow your pet to gradually sniff and feel the toothbrush against their gums with the toothpaste on it.
4. Always reward their calm behavior with treats and praise, and soon, you will have an established routine of tooth-brushing.
If your pet needs more than just a new brushing routine, your veterinarian may suggest a dental cleaning. During this procedure your pet will be sedated. The process can take 20-60 minutes depending on the condition of teeth. Veterinary staff will clean the plaque and gingivitis from gums and teeth, check for periodontal disease, perform necessary extractions, and check for oral masses or tumors.
Whether your pet is needing general maintenance for their oral health, or a more intrusive procedure, using the products your veterinarian suggests is the best way to keep your pet happy and healthy.