Dental Disease in Dogs & Cats
Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. Over 68% of all dogs over the age of three are estimated to have some form of periodontal or dental disease. Approximately two-thirds of cats over three years of age have some degree of dental disease. The most common problems are due to periodontal disease, gingivitis and cervical neck lesions, also called oral resorptive lesions.
Few pets show obvious signs of dental disease. It is up to the pet’s family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and often painful condition. Here at Seiler Animal Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida we believe prevention is the key.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Accumulation of tartar and calculus on the teeth causes gum recession around the base of the tooth. Infection soon follows and the gums recede further, exposing sensitive unprotected tooth root surfaces and the bony tooth sockets Left untreated, the infection spreads deep into the tooth socket, destroying the bone. Ultimately, the tooth loosens and falls out.
Is periodontal disease very common?
It is estimated that more than two-thirds of dogs over three years of age suffer from some degree of periodontitis, making it by far the most common disease affecting our pet dogs.
How does tartar form and why is it a problem?
The mouth is home to thousands of bacteria. As these bacteria multiply on the surfaces of the tooth, they form an invisible layer called plaque or biofilm. Some of this plaque is removed naturally by the dog’s tongue and chewing habits. If allowed to remain on the tooth surface, the plaque thickens and becomes mineralized. Mineralized plaque forms tartar and as the tartar thickens further it becomes calculus. The tartar accumulates above and below the gumline and presses on the gums, causing inflammation called gingivitis.
As the oral infection progresses, tonsillitis and pharyngitis can also occur. The bacteria can also be absorbed into the blood stream and be carried to other organs. “Bad teeth” can cause infections in the heart valves (endocarditis), kidneys and/or liver.
Can tartar be prevented?
Plaque becomes mineralized in some dogs much quicker than in others.
The best way to prevent tartar build-up is regular home care, particularly tooth brushing using toothpaste that is specifically designed to be swallowed. Special dog chew toys and treats may help reduce or delay tartar build-up. Some pet foods have been specifically formulated as dental diets that mechanically assist in plaque removal.
Once tartar has formed, it will be necessary to remove it by professional scaling and polishing. Call Seiler Animal Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to discuss your options.
Can I use human toothpaste?
Human dentifrice or toothpaste should never be used in dogs. Many human toothpaste or other oral hygiene products contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is safe for use in humans but highly toxic in dogs and cats. Even if there is no xylitol in the toothpaste, these foaming products contain ingredients that are not intended to be swallowed and that could cause internal problems if they are swallowed. Human products often contain higher levels of sodium than your pet requires, which is another reason why they should not be swallowed. You should also avoid using baking soda to clean your pet’s teeth. Baking soda is alkaline and if swallowed can upset the acid balance in the stomach and digestive tract. In addition, baking soda does not taste very good, and may cause your pet to be uncooperative when you try to brush its teeth.
February is Pet Dental Month! All month long we offer a 10% discount. To schedule a dental cleaning or ask any questions, please call Seiler Animal Hospital at 954-491-1222.
Provided by Ernest Ward, DVM, Life Learn 2010. Courtesy of Douglas Thieme, DVM
Seiler Animal Hospital l2650 NE 57th Street Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308 954-491-1222