Four out of five (80%) dogs and cats over the age of three years have some form of dental disease which may go unnoticed by their owners. This isn’t really surprising, because we all know that at home it can be difficult to examine your pet’s teeth, especially the big molars at the back, let alone keep them clean and healthy. Other factors that plot against fresh breath and pearly whites include having a full mouth of biggish teeth in small ‘Terrier’ and ‘Oodle’ breeds and some teeth misalignment in our brachycephalic (pug nosed) breeds. Big dogs can have trouble too if they break teeth or grind the enamel down to the pulp cavity (inside of the tooth).
Our aim is to keep your pet in great health, and having a clean healthy mouth is an important part of that.
So how can you tell if your dog or cat has dental disease?
A good clue in your pet’s breath, which should not smell unpleasant. Bad breath is a sign of bacterial infection, usually associated with gingivitis – red, inflamed gums and teeth stained with tartar (a hard-mineral accumulation) and plaque – food/bacteria. Given many pets sleep with their owners and give kisses, pet oral hygiene is important. Sometimes pets will rub their face, dribble, drop food and shy away from eating hard food. Not only is it important to keep your pet’s mouth free from pain, we also need to ensure that the bacteria from dental infections do not spread to their heart, liver and kidneys through the blood stream. Tonsillitis and airway disease (tracheitis and bronchitis) can accompany bad teeth causing a recurring cough.
Every year when your pet comes in to see us for their annual health check and vaccination, we examine their teeth and gums to assess their health. We always write a scale of dental disease and when we reach grade 2, we recommend a scale and polish. If it is done at this stage, we can usually prevent teeth being extracted due to exposure and infection of the tooth roots and loosening of the teeth. As an anaesthetic is required for the dental procedure, we try to prevent waiting to do these until the pet is elderly when the anaesthetic risk is higher. We do have the capacity to safely anaesthetise older animals after checking heart and kidney health and supporting their cardiovascular system with fluids while they have the procedure.
Some methods of preventing dental disease include: