Good teeth are so vital
DENTAL disease is very common in cats and dogs.
Surveys show that after the age of three years, about seven out of ten pets have some kind of tooth disorders.
If left unattended these may cause irreversible damage to the dog’s teeth, gums and jaw bones.
Dental disease can be prevented by stopping the build-up of plaque.
Plaque is a yellowish white deposit made up of bacteria and debris which forms around the surface of the teeth.
In time, it hardens to become yellowish brown tartar (sometimes called calculus) at the base of the tooth which gradually spreads until it may cover the whole of its surface.
As well as the visible tartar, there may be other indications of disease. Foul breath is very common and the pain resulting from advanced dental disease may cause difficulties in eating.
If your dog dribbles excessively and sometimes this is flecked with blood or shows signs of pain and discomfort such as head shaking and pawing at its mouth, it may have problems with its teeth.
The tartar hidden below the gum line is the main cause of problems.
It contains bacteria which will attack the surrounding gum tissue causing painful inflammation (gingivitis), and infection can track down to the tooth roots. Pus may build up in the roots and form a painful abscess.
This inflammation wears away tissue from the gum, bones and teeth and, as the disease becomes more advanced, the teeth will loosen and fall out.
Bacteria and the poisons they produce can also get into the blood stream and cause damage throughout the body in organs such as the kidneys, heart and liver.
In the wild your dog’s teeth would be much cleaner because its diet would contain harder materials than those found in commercially tinned or packaged foods.
Replacing soft foods with dry or fibrous materials will slow the build up of plaque. Brushing your dog’s teeth with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste is important.
If your dog has advanced disease your vet may need to take x-rays of your pet’s head, under general anaesthesia.
Any loose teeth will have to be removed because the disease is too advanced to be treated.
Your vet may prescribe antibiotics before doing dental work if there are signs of infection.
Then your dog will be given a general anaesthetic so that your vet can remove the tartar, usually with an ultrasonic scaling machine. Finally, your dog’s teeth will be polished to leave a smooth surface which will slow down the build up of plaque in the future.