It is estimated more than 80% of pets suffer from dental disease. February is Pet Oral Health Month, however, as pet owners, we should be concerned every month about the health of our pet’s gums and teeth since dental disease can lead to bigger problems such as infection and tooth loss. Follow these three steps to help keep your dog’s or cat’s mouth healthy.
When it comes to detecting dental disease in your cat or dog, there are some obvious signs that we can see and smell. Symptoms can include trouble chewing, accumulation of plaque on teeth, bleeding gums, fractured teeth, tumors in the mouth and bad breath. What can really create problems is what happens under the gumline.
Dental radiographs or X-rays should be incorporated into the dental cleaning since a majority of problems can occur beneath the gums. Bacteria in the mouth will start attacking the jaw bone and the periodontal ligament that secures the tooth to the jaw. Infection at the tooth’s roots can lead to an abscess, which is very painful and damaging. Dental X-rays also can detect evidence of bone tumors and cysts that can occur under the gumline.
A treatment plan will include examining teeth for cracks and cavities as well as looking for infection. An ultrasonic hand scaler is used to break up the plaque on the teeth and under the gums. Scaling under the gums is the most important step. After the teeth have been scaled, they are polished to smooth the surfaces and help prevent bacteria from getting a foothold.
The best thing you can do for your pet’s oral health is daily home care. Brushing is still the gold standard, however, it can be difficult to brush our pets’ teeth, especially every day. There are many alternatives that can help, including special dental chews and additives that can be placed in your pet’s drinking water to help prevent plaque accumulation. For a list of approved dental products, please consult your veterinarian.
By Dr. Jonathan Gilvarry, contributing writer and associate vet at BridgeMill Animal Hospital.