Why is it Important to take care of your Pets Dental Health?
Just like humans, our pets require regular preventative dental care, such as teeth brushing or professional scaling & polishing.
Most pet owners only become aware of the need for dental care once plaque on the surface of your pet’s teeth has mineralized into tartar. Often at this point there is already a degree of periodontal disease, where the gums have been affected.
Common signs periodontal disease include:
- Halitosis or bad breath
- Inflammed, red and/or bleeding gums
- Tumors in the gums
- Cysts under the gums
- Loose teeth
Why is periodontal disease bad news for pets?
Periodontal disease is a painful infection between the tooth and the gum that can result in tooth loss and the spread infection to the rest of the body. When infection and tartar in your pets’ mouth worsens, structures around the teeth such as the gums and the periodontal ligaments get affected.
As a result the gums recede and ligaments in the mouth loosen, leading to tooth loss and the spread of infection to the underlying mandibular or maxillary bones and sinus, causing severe problems. In addition, bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream and spread into organs such as the heart valves and kidneys – leading to further organ problems.
Prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to dental care!
Preventative dental care involves regular teeth brushing. It is ideal to start brushing your pets teeth from an early age. We recommend using specially pet formulated tooth paste (which has a tasty flavour) & a pet tooth brush available from your vet or vet shop.
The mechanical action of chewing on the tooth surface also aids in keeping teeth clean. Feeding dry pet food is recommended over wet or tinned food. Specific dry pet food has been designed to encourage chewing and hard enough that they actually work on the tooth surface to remove plaque & doesn’t crumble when bitten into (see diagram below).
In addition safe dental chews and treats are available from vets and vet stores but one should avoid very hard treats.
The good, the bad & the ugly of oral health
Brushing is a fantastic aid in preventing the formation and accumulation of tartar, the rock like brown substance on the surface of the teeth. However once tartar is present, brushing will purely delay its further accumulation, but will not be able to remove it, as this ‘plaque’ has mineralized onto the tooth surface.
The only way to remove this tartar is to ‘scale’ it off. This is done by a veterinarian using a special dental scaler which emits vibrations, breaking down this rock like substance off the tooth surface. After this, the teeth are polished, to smooth the surface to try and delay the adhesion of more bacteria. However in many cases teeth extractions are required as a result of degredation of the gums and severe gingivitis. Below are images at teeth at different stages of dental health.
At Orange Grove Vet we assess dental health into the following grades:
Grade 1: Clean teeth – no plaque or tartar visible. Introduce regular teeth brushing.
Grade 2: Slight discolouration – plaque starting – daily brushing recommended.
Grade 3: Plaque clearly visible – daily teeth brushing and & oral care diet recommended
Grade 4: Severe plaque – dental scaling recommended
Grade 5: Severe Plaque & gingivitis – extractions and dental scaling necessary.
If your pet is already showing signs of periodontal disease, then professional dental scaling performed by your vet is recommended so as to prevent further dental & health problems as your pet ages.
Celebrate Pet Dental Month at Orange Grove Vet during September & October! SAVE 15% on your pet’s dental procedure! For more information visit www.orangegrovevet.co.za or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a booking contact us on +27117281371.
Dr Lara Frampton