Studies have shown that 70% of pets over the age of 2 years old have one or more symptoms of dental disease. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to detect in a conscious pet. Some signs of dental disease include bad breath, discoloured teeth (yellow or brown), crooked teeth, loose teeth, broken teeth, missing teeth, and red or bleeding gums. You may notice a change in food preference, a behaviour change associated with pain such as social withdrawal or lethargy or a lump or sore on the face or jaw.
Untreated dental disease can lead to other serious consequences. Dental plaque is composed of a bacterial film on the teeth. It hardens to form tartar and calculus. The gums become inflamed in response to this (called gingivitis). Untreated gingivitis causes gum loss (gingival recession) and eventual weakening of the periodontal ligament, which leads to tooth mobility and loss. Infection can spread into the jaw, causing a tooth root abscess or throughout the body and affect other organs including the heart. Dental disease is also very painful, as some of you probably have experienced.
Treatment begins with a general check-up with your vet or vet nurse. Further examination under general anaesthesia may be advised if there are any problems seen or your pet is frightened of having their mouth examined. A dental scale and polish may be advised, during which all teeth and gums are examined thoroughly, including a dental probe below the gum line. At this time all the teeth are cleaned, and it can be determined if any teeth need to be extracted.
After your pet’s dental exam or cleaning if required, a home-care program may be recommended to prevent dental disease. The gold standard in dental care is daily brushing. It does require patient training using gradual conditioning with lots of positive reinforcement. This method of dental care is used by zookeepers for tigers and other large cats, so we feel confident that you can do it too!
See the video below of young Elsie the poodle having her teeth cleaned and notice how many treats she is getting. Please do not use human toothpaste formulas as they are not designed to be swallowed and may be toxic to your pet.
If brushing is not for you, then there are many other ways of helping to keep teeth clean. Chewing on hard food performs a mechanical type of scaling. Dental chews may help too, as long as your pet chews them properly. Bones are a popular tool, but come with many provisos (not too hard, not too small, not cooked, not left out too long, etc.). There are some additives for food or water that claim to prevent plaque from forming. Talk to your vet if in doubt about what dental product is best for your pet.
Some pets that have lost teeth or have poor tooth alignment for example may require recurrent dental scaling and polishing to prevent further tooth loss. Regular check ups are very important.
Call our friendly team on (02) 4647 6199 for an appointment.