According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in companion animals. By the age of three, an astonishing 80% of dogs and 70% of cats exhibit signs of oral disease. Animals instinctively hide pain so by the time most pet owners notice signs of dental problems periodontal disease has established a foothold.
Just as in humans, periodontal disease is a serious, destructive condition that, if left untreated, can spread bacteria to your canine or feline family member’s heart, liver and kidneys. Dental disease starts as a bacterial film called plaque that attaches to the teeth. If the plaque is not removed through regular brushing and dental cleanings, it spreads below the gum line causing inflammation of the gums and infection of the root. In the later stages of periodontal disease, the gum tissue surrounding the tooth is destroyed, the infected tooth begins to erode, and eventually falls out. This is a very painful experience for your furry companion and one that is preventable.
Dental Disease Prevention
The most effective way to maintain your pet’s healthy mouth is with proper dental care which includes regular veterinary dental check-ups, home oral care and dental cleanings, ideally on a yearly basis. Starting a routine of good dental hygiene early in your pet’s life is essential to their overall health; however cats and dogs can learn to tolerate daily brushing at any age.
At AHN, we recommend an annual dental cleaning, also known as a prophylaxis, starting at 2 years of age. During the procedure your pet will be anesthetized; this is to ensure that your furry friend receives a complete and thorough dental cleaning. An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean each tooth thoroughly, both above and below the gum line. This is followed by polishing the teeth to create a smooth, lustrous tooth surface more resistant to plaque buildup.
The extent of the treatment depends on the severity of the disease, your individual pet’s health status, and your veterinarian’s assessment. Animals undergoing dental prophylaxis may need to be treated with antibiotics prior to teeth cleaning. Sometimes, diseased teeth may need to be extracted during the procedure. Your veterinarian will discuss the treatment details with you prior to performing the cleaning.
What are the signs of dental disease?
- Tartar and calculus (yellow-brown discoloration on the tooth),
- Gingivitis (red, swollen, or bleeding gums)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Loss of appetite or difficulty chewing food
- Increased or excessive drooling
- Pawing at the mouth
- Bad breath