Dental Health – The Facts

Did you now dental disease is one of the most common conditions seen in veterinary practices?

Bad breath is often the first sign of oral hygiene problems. It is estimated that 80 % of dogs and 70 % of cats, by the age of 3, suffer from dental disease – plaque is the enemy.

After each meal, plaque (an adhesive layer of bacteria) forms on your pet’s teeth. Gradually plaque hardens to form calculus, which is typically brown or yellowish in colour. Calculus provides an ideal surface for further bacterial growth, leading to inflammation of the gums. This is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is REVERSIBLE with professional descaling, polishing and subsequent home care.

If left untreated, the gums become detached from the tooth forming ‘pockets’ which predispose to further plaque build up. This represents the first stage of periodontitis. Early stage periodontitis is also REVERSIBLE with professional descaling, polishing and subsequent home care.
In the absence of appropriate care, the progression of periodontitis see’s the gums start to recede and supportive tissues of the teeth destroyed. This may result in root exposure, abscess formation and teeth becoming loose or falling out. Advanced stages of periodontitis are IRREVERSIBLE and may require tooth extraction.

In addition to the effects within the mouth, it has also been shown that bacteria within the oral cavity may enter the bloodstream via the inflamed gums and damage other organs of the body, such as the heart, liver and kidneys.

Typical signs of dental problems
  • Bad Breath
  • Yellow teeth or brown colour spots on teeth
  • Inflammed gums
  • Excessive salivation and dribbling
  • Sore mouth
  • Difficulty eating
  • Bleeding gums
  • Pawing or rubbing the mouth
Common causes

Age – dental disease is more common in older pets

Breed – small dogs are more likely to have overcrowded or isaligned teeth that are difficult to keep clean, making them more prone to dental disease

Food – feeding predominantly wet food might lead to a more rapid build-up of plaque and tartar.

Dental Hygiene – how can you help your pet?

Check regularly for signs of dental problems and if in doubt or your pet won’t let you, then make an appointment to see one of our experienced vets. Monitor your pet’s breath and look for signs of calculus and reddening of the gums.

Yearly vet checks – have your pet’s teeth checked at least once a year by your vet.

Dental products early in life – Remember prevention is better than cure so perhaps starting early in life with dental products and brushing will help avoid future problems. Start a daily home care routine especially after any professional cleaning.

Feed dry food with larger kibbles that clean your pet’s teeth whilst eating. There are also specialist diets available from our clinic which are clinically proven to reduce the accumulation of dental plaque and tartar without compromising on taste. Why not talk to one of our team for more information.

Brushing is the single most effective method of removing plaque. A specific toothpaste designed for pets however is necessary. They contain an enzyme complex which supplements your pet’s own natural salivary system and helps attack bacteria. They have a pleasant taste and are very well tolerated by both cats and dogs. Do not use your own dental products as they are not suitable for your pet. There are lots of different finger brushes and tooth brushes of various sizes available.

Oral Rinses – products are available which contain plaque fighting formulations which are beneficial with or without brushing.
Drinking water additives – These are used daily in drinking water to inhibit plaque build-up and maintain fresh odour free breath. Use in addition to brushing, rinsing and special diets.

Professional cleaning – The vet may recommend professional scaling and polishing such as what we do with our own teeth. This is often necessary if there is a large build up or tartar as nothing will remove it without scaling. If your pet’s dental disease has got to this stage it will be necessary for them to come into the clinic for this safe and routine day procedure. Look out for occasional offers on dental check-ups and professional cleaning.

How to brush your pet’s teeth?

Gradually follow these steps to brushing. Be patient and take your time, some pets may need a day or two at each step.

Step 1 – gently stroke the outside of your pet’s cheeks, with just your fingers (no brush) for about 30 seconds, then slowly lift the top lip to see the teeth.

Step 2 – Repeat as above and also place a small amount of toothpaste on the end of your finger and let your pet taste it.

Step 3 – Lift the top lip, then gently run your finger or finger toothbrush with a small amount of toothpaste over your pet’s teeth for 30-45 seconds.

Step 4 – repeat step 3, extending the time by about 15 seconds at a time

Step 5 – When your pet is happy with the teeth being rubbed with a finger or finger toothbrush for a minute, start to use a toothbrush for about 30 seconds.

Step 6 – Repeat as step 5 and increase the time by 30 seconds.

Step 7 – By this time you should be aiming to spend at least one minute on each side of the mouth.

If your pet is well behaved reward with a praise and a treat (a dental chew is ideal) at the end of each session.
Why not watch this video for more information –

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