You may think your pet’s bad breath is normal, but halitosis can indicate a significant health issue. Approximately 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some degree of dental disease by the time they are 3 years of age, and this issue can result in more than offensive smelling breath. Our team at Towne Centre Animal Hospital wants to explain why pet dental care is so important to ensure your pet’s mouth is kept clean and healthy.

#1: Dental disease can cause pain and discomfort for your pet

When your pet eats, small food particles that are left on their teeth and gums attract bacteria. As bacteria accumulate, they form plaque on the teeth, and minerals in your pet’s saliva are deposited in these plaques, leading to tartar formation. The invading bacteria can cause significant damage to the soft tissue and bony structures of your pet’s mouth, as well as pain and discomfort. Since pets are adept at hiding pain, these issues may not be evident, and dental disease may not be discovered until your pet is brought in for a wellness exam. 

#2: Dental disease can make eating difficult for your pet

As dental disease progresses, the supporting tooth structures can be broken down to the point that teeth become loose, causing pain when your pet attempts to eat. You may also notice excessive salivation, red, swollen gums, and traces of blood on your pet’s chew toys. In addition to periodontitis, cats can experience tooth resorption, which occurs when odontoclasts are activated. These cells are normally responsible for resorption of the deciduous teeth roots, to allow room for mature teeth. For unknown reasons, these cells are triggered, and they break down the dentin and other tooth structures. While some affected cats exhibit no signs, other cats suffer with extremely painful lesions, causing them to refuse to eat, or have difficulty chewing.

#3: Dental disease can lead to jaw fractures in your pet

As dental disease progresses, bacteria cause bone loss, which can be appreciated only on dental X-rays. In cats and small-breed dogs, this bone loss can lead to mandibular fractures, since these pets’ tooth roots are so close to the bony edge. These fractures can be difficult to heal, because the bone is so weak and infected. 

#4: Dental disease can lead to organ damage in your pet

The bacteria that invade under your pet’s gum line can also travel through the bloodstream and damage organs such as the kidneys, heart, and liver. A pet with dental disease can harbor large numbers of bacteria in their mouth and oral tissues, and these bacteria are the same pathogens typically implicated in causing heart disease in pets. Common heart-related issues include endocarditis (i.e., infection and inflammation inside the heart) and valvular disease. The liver and kidneys also are commonly affected, because these organs are responsible for filtering waste materials from the blood, which allows oral bacteria to spread to these organs. 

#5: Providing pet dental care saves you money

Dental disease can lead to costly conditions, especially if your pet’s organs are affected. Preventive dental care helps ensure your pet won’t require expensive procedures to address oral complications caused by dental disease, and decreases their risk for heart, liver, and kidney disease.

How to provide pet dental care

Dental disease is a concerning issue, but you can take steps to ensure your pet’s mouth stays clean and healthy.

  • Professional veterinary dental cleaning — The only way to remove the problematic bacteria under your pet’s gum line is to ensure they have regular professional veterinary dental cleanings. These procedures are performed on your pet under general anesthesia, so their entire mouth can be fully evaluated and thoroughly cleaned without injuring their mouth or causing unwarranted stress. Their vitals are closely monitored throughout the procedure and during recovery, to ensure they are never in danger. Full mouth X-rays are a vital part of a professional veterinary dental cleaning, to accurately determine if any bone loss has occurred, and these images can also help indicate that a tooth requires extraction. All plaque and tartar are removed from your pet’s teeth and from under their gum line during the procedure, and your pet’s teeth are treated to help decrease future plaque and tartar accumulation. 
  • Daily toothbrushing — Plaque can start to accumulate on your pet’s teeth as little as 12 hours after eating, and can harden to tartar in about 48 hours. This means that daily brushing is required, to ensure your pet’s mouth remains clean and healthy. Most pets can be taught to accept toothbrushing if you start when they are young, and slowly acclimate them to the procedure. Ensure you use only products specifically formulated for pets, since human dental care products can be toxic to pets. Several pet-specific toothpaste products are available in many flavors your pet may enjoy. In addition, ensure the brush is soft enough that you won’t damage or irritate their sensitive oral tissues. 
  • Providing dental chews — Appropriate dental chews and treats can help remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. Choose products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to ensure the treats are safe and effective.

Take the appropriate steps to address your pet’s dental health, to ensure they remain happy and healthy. If you would like to schedule a professional veterinary dental cleaning for your pet, contact our team at Towne Centre Animal Hospital, so we can make their smile camera-ready.