Dental Disease and Gingivitis
Do Pets Really Need Dental Care?
Imagine not brushing your teeth or having them cleaned for 3 years! How do you think that would make your mouth feel and your breath smell? Likely… not very good!
Pets, just like people, need regular dental care to keep their teeth and gums healthy. Studies have shown that greater than 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 have some form of dental and/or gum disease.
What Is Dental Disease?
Dental disease starts with plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance made up mostly of mucus and bacteria (and a few other things) that occurs naturally in the mouth and coats the teeth. Although plaque is sticky, it can be easily removed. Brushing your pet's teeth is the best way to remove the plaque.
When plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar (dental calculus). Tartar is very hard and can only be removed with specialized dental tools by a trained professional, like your Veterinarian generally under anesthetic.
What Is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis, also known as gum disease, is characterized by redness, swelling (inflammation) and irritation of the gums. Gum disease results from the formation of tartar on the teeth.
Tartar is irritating to the gums, especially when it accumulates under the gum line (where the gums and teeth meet). The tartar present on the teeth induces gingivitis, which can lead to bad breath, inflamed bleeding gums, loose teeth and even oral pain for your pet. Surprisingly, most pets will continue to eat despite having a toothache! So even if your pet is eating, it may have gum and/or dental disease.
Once gingivitis has set in, the gums are less able to protect the body from the bacteria in the mouth. This means more bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream. Bacteria in the bloodstream can affect vital organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys, and may lead to more serious health complications.
How Is Dental and Gum Disease Prevented?
Dental and gum disease in cats and dogs can be prevented with routine dental cleanings, regular examinations, home dental care and a diet specially formulated for dental health. All of these can significantly improve your pet's quality of life and extend their longevity.
Unfortunately, there are some factors that contribute to tartar build-up that are beyond our control. These factors are why some pets need more dental care than others. Factors beyond our control can include:
- How much a pet chews its food
- How much saliva a pet produces
- The shape, size and placement of the teeth (all determined by genetics)
- The type of bacteria in the mouth
- A pet's age
- Home Dental Care
- Veterinary Dental Care
Home Dental Care
Home dental care is what you can do everyday at home to minimize dental and gum disease in your pet. The absolute best thing you can do for your pet is brush their teeth daily (see below). If your pet will not allow you to brush its teeth, then there are also a variety of gels, treats, and other products that can help fight the plaque and bacteria that leads to dental and gum disease.
Virbac CET Dental Chews
Virbac Hextra Dental Chews
Healthy Mouth water additive
Dental diets like: t/d or Medi-cal Royal Canin Dental formula
Brushing Your Pet's Teeth:
To brush your pet's teeth, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste made for pets. They come in a variety of pet friendly flavours…. Chicken, beef, seafood, malt or vanilla mint if you want minty fresh breath. There are pet tooth brushes specifically shaped to create best contact with their tooth surface.
Finger brushes are a great choice for your first try. Put some toothpaste on the toothbrush. Brush your pet's outer teeth with a gentle side to side motion, making sure you get all the teeth, especially in the back of the mouth. Fortunately, most gingivitis in cats and dogs happens on the outside of the teeth, so usually you don't have to brush the inside of your pet's teeth which could be difficult! Starting to brush your pets teeth when they are young is a good habit to get into and often makes it much easier to continue the brushing as they get older.
Brushing daily would be ideal……if busy schedules don't allow that to happen, some brushing is better than no brushing…. Shoot for a minimum of twice weekly….and increase frequency if you can… once you establish the habit , finding 5 minutes to brush will come more easily.
Veterinary Dental Care
Veterinary Dental Care is needed when your pet has formed a significant amount of tartar, or has other dental problems that cannot be helped with home dental care. The most common veterinary dental procedure is the routine dental prophy consisting of a scale and polishing.
A prophy is like the routine dental cleanings our dentist does for us, and consists of a dental exam with a probe/explorer to measure for periodontal disease, removing plaque and tartar from the teeth, oral surgery to extract any teeth that cannot be saved, and polishing the teeth to slow future plaque build-up. Since pets will not hold their mouths open for us, we need to place them under general anesthetic. This allows us to clean the tartar under the gum line safely (the tartar that causes the most problems); something that is not possible when a pet is awake. Dental radiographs may also be taken at this time if there are any teeth that look like they may need to be extracted either now or in the future.
Looking to save costs on dental care?
Most people get their own teeth cleaned every 6-9 months. The best advice we can offer is don't wait until it is too late. The longer you leave dental disease , the more damage will occur and therefore , the more dental work required – hence increased dental costs. If your veterinarian recommends a cleaning at age 3, you are best to get the cleaning done then as it may be just that…. a cleaning and no dental surgery.
Scale and Polish
Dentals are quoted based on the degree of dental disease, level 4 being the worst.
A tube of toothpaste costs roughly $14…….. if you can look after your pets teeth at home, that means money can stay in your pocket book. If you would like us to show you how to properly brush your dog's teeth just ask the next time your in. One of our trained Registered Veterinary Technicians would be happy to.
If you think your pet needs a dental prophy, please call 519-624-9760 to book a free dental exam.
We will provide you with a treatment plan to get your pets mouth back to a healthy state…. With better breath !