Treating and preventing dental, or periodontal, disease is one of the best ways to improve your pet’s quality and length of life. Preventing the kidney, liver, and heart issues associated with advanced dental disease can potentially add years to your pet’s life. Here’s what you need to know about dental health for your pet:

What causes dental and periodontal disease?

Bacterial overgrowth is most responsible for dental disease in dogs and cats. When your pet eats, food particles become trapped in the nooks and crannies around her lips and teeth, and bacteria combine with the bits of food, and form a substance called plaque, which toothbrushing can remove. Plaque that is not removed becomes tartar, which can only be scraped off professionally with specialized equipment. Periodontal disease results when plaque and tartar build up, and bacteria grow under the gumline. 

What are the side effects of periodontal disease?

Side effects of dental, or periodontal, disease can include:

  • Bad breath
  • Dental pain
  • Bleeding gums
  • Trouble eating
  • Appetite loss
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Tooth-root abscess

How do I know if my pet has dental disease?

If you have noticed any of the signs, and you’re concerned your pet may have dental disease, the veterinarians at our hospital would be happy to thoroughly evaluate your pet’s mouth.

How do you treat dental disease?

Treating dental issues before they progress to periodontal disease, when bone and tooth loss occur, is most important. Our veterinary team, including our veterinarians and our licenced veterinary medical technicians, have specialized training in digital dental radiography and other advanced procedures, and can provide your pet with the highest quality care. We will perform the cleaning and any other dental treatment under general anesthesia, following these steps:

  • Examination The first step is a thorough oral exam.
  • Scale and polish — We perform an in-depth scaling of each tooth to remove accumulated plaque and tartar, and then polish your pet’s clean teeth.
  • Check for pockets — We thoroughly probe the gums around the teeth to check for pockets that may develop due to periodontal disease.
  • Take X-rays — Because more than 60% of each tooth lies underneath the gumline, digital dental X-rays can help us ensure the whole tooth is healthy, not only the surface.
  • Develop a treatment plan — We will discuss your pet’s oral exam, probing results, and X-rays, and then develop a treatment plan based on the findings.

Can dental disease be prevented?

A oral-health regimen can help delay periodontal-disease onset, but must be daily to be effective. Also, an at-home regimen does not replace a professional cleaning at least once per year. Many products, including pet-friendly toothbrushes and flavored toothpaste, chew treats, water additives, and oral gels, wipes, and sprays are available for at-home use, but always choose products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal, which guarantees they prevent plaque and tartar. 

How do I get started brushing my pet’s teeth?

Daily toothbrushing is one of the most effective ways to prevent plaque and tartar buildup, but establishing a routine with your pet can require patience and perseverance. Follow these tips:

  • Start slow — Ensure your pet understands what you are asking her to do. Introduce the toothbrush and toothpaste, and slowly increase the time and number of teeth you brush, always offering praise and treats to form a positive association.
  • Keep sessions short — Each session should last no more than one to two minutes, which should be enough time to quickly brush all your pet’s teeth, and easy to fit into your busy schedule.
  • Keep training positive — Positive reinforcement will help ensure that your pet’s daily toothbrushing becomes a bonding experience. 

Every pet owner should understand the importance of their pet’s dental health. Every pet will likely need dental care at some point, but a daily at-home regimen, plus professional cleanings and treatment at our hospital, can help not only delay dental disease, but also ensure your pet’s overall well-being. Contact our hospital for your pet’s annual dental evaluation and treatment.