Dental disease is a very common problem in dogs and cats with most over the age of 3 having teeth and gum problems.
It is useful to recognise that dental disease in pets progresses in the same way ours does.
It starts with plaque (a sticky invisible infected film) that becomes mineralised (tartar). Gums become inflamed due to the irritation of the plaque.
Gingivitis (inflamed gums) is seen as red or swollen gum margins. Gingivitis can cause the gums to bleed (just like ours can when we brush our teeth). Tartar is seen as the rough raised coating on teeth. Ongoing inflammation of the gums from untreated gingivitis eventually leads to loss of the periodontal ligament and the gums recede from the teeth (periodontitis). Eventually there will be loss of bone.
If we remove the tartar before the gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease it is completely reversible. Periodontitis follows on from gingivitis and is not reversible. So it is important to remove the tartar before the periodontitis starts.
If left untreated dental disease progresses and can result in:
- Bad breath – Halitosis
- Gum disease – Gingivitis
- Supporting tissue disease – Periodontitis
- Loss of teeth
- Can cause and progress kidney disease
- Liver inflammation and infection
- Heart valve disease
How do we scale and polish teeth?
Cleaning the teeth properly involves an anaesthetic. It is impossible to examine and clean the teeth properly without an anaesthetic. Modern anaesthetics are very safe in otherwise healthy pets.
Once they are asleep we use an ultrasonic scaler, just like your dentist, to remove the tartar and plaque. It is very important to scale beneath the gum line. If you’ve ever had your teeth scaled you will be aware that it is quite uncomfortable. As our patients teeth are usually in a lot worse condition than yours would be – you can appreciate that it is important for them to feel no pain.
Once all the teeth have been descaled, a fine fluoride polish is used to smooth the surface of the enamel to make it difficult for plaque to stick to the surface.
What to do after the treatment?
Plaque builds up quickly afterwards so home care should be started as soon as possible.
We brush our teeth twice a day to remove plaque. With pets this is a lot more challenging!
- Brushing the teeth with a pet toothpaste.
- Mechanical cleaning with dental specific foods.
- Pet specific mouth washes, water additives, gels etc.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of products for dogs and cats that have been proven to make a difference in the development of plaque and/or tartar.
One of the most useful products we recommend is ESSENTIAL™ healthymouth™ anti-plaque water additive. This has multiple VOHC seals of approval, proving it’s effectivity. You only need to add it to your dog and cat’s drinking water, making it easy and convenient to use. It is in stock at Potton Vets, and you don’t need a prescription.
More on dental disease.
How to brush my dogs teeth.