February is National Pet Dental Month!

It is National Pet Dental Month which is your reminder to check on your pets’ teeth! Dental diseases affects the teeth, gums, and the support structures around your pet’s teeth. It may begin as simple plaque buildup but, left untreated, can be much more serious. By the age of 3, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs will have developed dental disease. Be aware of what to look for to help keep your pet healthy!

Stages of Dental Disease:

  1. Plaque Accumulation: a shiny film of bacteria coats the teeth. Bad breath and stained teeth are early indicators. If not addressed, the film accumulates and hardens.
  2. Tartar Buildup: Plaque hardens into tartar. This is a hard, calcified layer that forms on the teeth above or below the gumline. Unlike plaque, tartar must be removed by your veterinarian.
  3. Gum Inflammation (Gingivitis): Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum inflammation. If treated early on, the damage from the inflammation can be reversed. It may result in tooth loss.
  4. Gum Separation (Periodontitis): Inflamed gums allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream – kidney, heart, or liver disease can result. If the gums separate, the damage is permanent.

Signs of Dental Disease:

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow or brown crust on tooth surface
  • Bleeding gums
  • Change in chewing habits
  • Tooth loss
  • Drooling
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Reduced appetite / refusal to eat
  • Pain in or around the mouth
  • Swelling in areas surrounding the mouth

Prevention of Dental Disease:

  1. Professional Dental Cleanings: dental cleanings can be done by veterinary professionals. These cleanings often require general anesthesia so the veterinarians can clean above and below the gumline.
  2. Diet/Prescription Pet Food: crunching on dry food can help to clean your pet’s teeth with limited involvement from their human. It is a good idea to check with your veterinarian on which food will be best for your pet.
  3. Brushing Teeth: using a finger toothbrush or your finger wrapped in fabric, gently rub pet-friendly toothpaste over your pet’s gums and teeth. Focus on the outside surface facing the cheek as this part is most prone to tartar build up.
  4. Check In: once a week, lift your pet’s lips to check teeth for any issues such as red, inflamed gums or discoloration

Follow these tips and your pet will have a shining smile for years to come!