Importance of Pet Dental Health
Most people are familiar with good dental hygiene. They brush/floss their teeth every day and they have regular checkups every 6 months for a professional dental evaluation and cleaning by their dentist.
What most people don't think about or realize is that our pets' teeth need good dental hygiene as well!.
There are many factors which affect how quickly and how severely pets develop dental disease,everything from whether they chew their food or swallow it whole,to genetics, to what the normal bacterial flora is in their mouth. Good dental hygiene is necessary to protect the health of their mouth and of their bodies. Poor oral hygiene leads to infection in the mouth which can enter the bloodstream, damaging the heart, kidneys, and other organs.
Oral infections primarily exist under the gum line causing periodontal disease. This will lead to destruction of bone, gum tissue and other tissues that hold the teeth in place. It can be difficult to tell when a pet has an infection in its mouth. Many will develop halitosis (bad breath) but most will continue to eat normally despite any discomfort they may be feeling, even with severe dental disease.
In order to help maintain good oral health in pets, Veterinarians recommend regular health visits including an exam of the teeth and routine professional dental cleanings. Simply removing the tartar from the crowns of the teeth will make the teeth "look" better, but it will not improve any periodontal disease or infection that exists under the gum line. This is why dental cleanings for pets are always recommended to be performed under anesthesia allowing thorough examination and cleaning of each tooth, including under the gum line,and polishing to smooth the tooth surface against attachment of new bacteria.
Daily brushing remains the gold standard for prevention of plaque and calculus build-up and to slow the progression of periodontal disease. There are also many diets,treats,chews and water additives that can be used to aid in at home preventative dental care.
Just like their owners,pets need both good at home dental hygiene and professional dental care.
Fred Steverson, DVM
January 7, 2016