Your pet’s oral health is something that you can make a big difference with and it does not have to cost a lot of money if you start early enough. We have all heard the statistic that by age 3, 80% of pets have some form of dental disease. This can be anything from slightly red and irritated gums (gingivitis) to teeth that are already mobile and need to be extracted. As we have bred dogs smaller and smaller, their teeth have not shrunk proportionally. This leads to crowding in the mouth which means more tartar build up and gingivitis/periodontal disease.
Dog do not typically get cavities they instead get red thickened gums that bleed when they chew on toys, rawhides or even when they eat hard kibble. This bleeding is a huge warning sign and should not be ignored. Once their gums are diseased, they no longer protect the bone and tooth root from the bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria get under the gum line and begins to destroy the bone. As your dog or cat loses more bone, then the teeth become loose and need to be extracted.
So, what can we do? Most importantly, consult with your veterinarian about home care. Brushing your dog or cat’s teeth can make a huge difference. Always use a fluoride free pet safe tooth paste, brush the outer surface of the teeth at the gum line, and their tongue will take care of the insides of the teeth as well as the top of the tooth surface.
Diet can play a role as well. There are a few diets that have been shown to reduce tartar and plaque buildup. The Veterinary Oral Health Council, www.vohc.com, has an extensive list of diets and chews that have been shown to help control plaque and tartar. Soft food vs dry kibble only matter if you are feeding an oral care diet.
Sometimes in spite of all we do at home or situations beyond our control, our pets need dental cleaning and a very thorough oral evaluation. Oral dental radiographs allow your veterinarian to see below the gums and make sure the tooth root is healthy. Since more of the tooth is below the gums than above (kind of like an iceberg), this is crucial for good oral care. Once the teeth have been examined and cleaned, home care becomes even more important to keep those pearly whites sparkling.
February is National Pet Dental Month and most veterinary hospitals offer some incentive or discount, but every month should be dental month. Don’t wait until next February to help you four legged friend have a comfortable and pain free mouth.