Did you know?
Studies have shown that 85% of dogs over three years of age suffer from some sort of periodontal disease (bad breath, bleeding gums and gum loss). Since they cannot keep their own mouths clean, it is up to us as owners to do it.
But, what is the big fuss about?
Well, think about it this way. We can survive with a tooth ache for a couple of days (while waiting for an appointment at our dentist) before it becomes unbearable. In that time it affects how we eat, our moods and if left untreated, ultimately our health. It is the same for dogs and cats except animal instincts are to not show any pain and weakness making it much harder to notice.
What will happen?
Dental plaque is composed of food particles and saliva which mix together to form a sticky film on your dog’s teeth. If the plaque is left on the teeth, it will harden into a thick, bone-like formation called calculus (or tartar), which can cover the entire tooth and hide bacteria resulting in an underlying infection. These bacteria that accumulate in your dog or cat’s mouth can travel throughout the body and affect the heart, kidneys and liver. Therefore, the gingiva (or gums) become inflamed and responds by mounting an immune response, sometimes to the detriment of the animal. It doesn’t stop there though. As long as the calculus protects the bacteria, the body cannot win and reacts by retracting the gum which ultimately ends in breaking down the ligament around the tooth and tooth loss.
How can we (as owners) help?
- Home brushing. Starting as a puppy will get them used to it quickly. Doggy toothbrushes and toothpastes are readily available. (Please do not use human products. They contain chemicals which could be harmful to your pet’s digestive tract).
- Dental chew toys and treats can also be purchased from your vet or petshop. These are manufactured to help clean your dog’s teeth as he chews on them.
- Feeding kibbles or hard food. The abrasive action of biting through the kibble can assist in cleaning the tooth surface. There are also diets specifically formulated to keep teeth clean.
- Book a dental. Dentals are done under anaesthetic. Once properly anaesthetised, we proceed to clean the teeth with a high-powered, ultra-sonic water pick. The water pick vibrates at such a high rate of speed that any hard calculus formed on the teeth is easily broken up. If any of the teeth are broken or the roots are no longer holding the teeth in place, they are normally extracted to prevent any future complications. If the cavity from which the tooth was removed is too big, we can suture it to close it up. Once the calculus has been removed, the teeth are polished and the mouth is rinsed with an antibiotic wash.
Take home message
Keeping your dog’s teeth and gums clean and infection-free can mean a difference in years when it comes to your pet’s life.