This is the most common form of dental disease and refers to the teeth and supporting structures around the teeth. It starts with the formation of plaque (food and bacterial debris) on the tooth surface. This leads to gingivae (gums) becoming very sore and inflamed. This inflammation is termed gingivitis. The plaque eventually hardens and mineralizes to form tartar.
If left untreated the periodontal disease progresses, leading to gum recession. The supporting ligaments which hold the teeth, and the bone in which the teeth sit, all become damaged causing loosening of the decaying teeth. Deep pockets of infection often result with pus, pain and bleeding in the animal’s mouth.
Signs of Dental Disease
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Oral pain
- Head shaking/ clawing at face
- Anorexia – reluctance to eat
- Food dropping
- Gingivitis (red inflamed gums)
- Weight loss
Treatment of Dental Disease
Any signs of dysphagia (difficulty eating) or oral pain require immediate veterinary attention. Close inspection of the teeth and surrounding structures is only possible under general anaesthetic since animals do not tolerate a dental examination conscious. Your veterinary surgeon will assess the extent of the periodontal disease and decide if any extractions need to be performed. Decayed teeth obviously need to be removed, as do broken, exposed and infected teeth. Any remaining teeth which are healthy and solid are usually scaled and polished to remove any forming tartar. Debris around the gingival margin (gum line) is also removed. Recovery from a dental procedure is often rapid, even with multiple extractions. The animals often eat readily at home the same day. This is because the source of the oral pain has been removed.
Prevention of Dental Disease
Halitosis is often the first alerting sign of developing dental disease. Many owners think that bad breath is unpleasant but normal in their pets. It is not normal and is usually an early sign of a diseased mouth. Checking your pet’s mouth for signs of dental disease should be a regular part of routine healthcare. Plaque usually forms around the premolars and molars first so it is important to carefully check the back teeth when examining your pet’s mouth. Gingivitis will often look like angry red gum around the tooth. Rather than try and open your pet’s mouth, start by lifting up the upper lip around the cheek. You can often get a good view of the teeth in this way. Gingivitis and tartar often go hand in hand and appear in close proximity. A variety of dental health products exist. It is important to select ones that you will be able to teach your pet to tolerate without harm to you or your pet. Teeth brushing is an excellent way of maintaining dental health in pets but is less tolerated by some. It is easier to start brushing when an animal is younger.
Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth
Always introduce teeth brushing slowly and gradually. Allow your pet to become accustomed to this type of handling by gradual progressive techniques. It is counter productive to pin an animal down and try and force a procedure since this can put you and your pet at risk. To introduce your pet to the idea of brushing, first dip your finger in some food your pet would consider tasty. Rub this finger around the lips and possibly inside the mouth. This can be repeated on a number of occasions while giving your pet praise. The idea is that this experience will be a pleasant one. Next try and wrap some cloth around your finger and again dip this in the tasty food. Rub your finger inside the cheek against the teeth. If this is tolerated then try a pet toothbrush with some tasty food on the tip. Concentrate in the gum margin along all the teeth. It is important to go gradually, increasing the area you brush each time. As you progress change the food for a specific pet dental paste which helps clean the teeth. The process of brushing should be full of praise for your pet. The positive reinforcement should help make the process much more pleasurable for both pet and owner. It isn’t important to clean the inside of the teeth as it is the outside. The long tongue of dogs often rubs the inside surface of the teeth so that plaque formation is less here than the outside of the teeth. However if your pet will tolerate it, then it is advisable to brush this area also.
Brushing Cats Teeth
Cats can often be much less tolerant to teeth brushing so be very careful when you try this. Do not force the activity, especially if your cat is becoming stressed. You don’t want to risk being bitten or scratched. There are specific tooth brushes for cat’s teeth which are designed to make this job easier. If there is no chance of you being able to brush your cat’s teeth then consider using supplements to the food which could serve to reduce plaque and tartar levels.
Natural Teeth Cleaning
As part of your pets teeth cleaning regime why not try nature’s natural method and feed raw bones. Crunching raw bones has a great effect on dislodging plaque and tartar. See our article on natural food diets to give you some advice.
The vets at Vital Pet Health have sourced some of the best dental products on the market to arm you in your battle with tooth decay. Visit the dental shop to check out some of these great products. It’s important not to use human toothpastes in pets, they will resent the taste and strong smell, use one of the suggested products for best results.
Veterinary formulated toothpaste
Whenever you try and brush your pet’s teeth, you should also use a pet toothbrush which is designed for your pet’s mouth. For dogs that like to chew, you can use dental toys such as dental kongs or dental sticks. You can fill the grooves on these toys with your
to encourage the chewing action.